By Matthew Wallenstein
It was the start of morning and the sun was bright in my eyes. When I held my head at certain angles I just saw yellow. Chris, Ben and I had dried off from the swim and put our clothes back on. We were standing by the water. On either side of it there were tall cliffs, they were chalky red. We were in Montana. Our band was making its way around the US. We had been sleeping in the van and on floors for a couple months but it felt good.
“Let’s go over there,” I said, pointing at the railroad bridge.
When we got there I started climbing its supports, which made Ben climb a little higher than me, which of course made me climb a little higher than him. Pretty soon the three of us were pulling ourselves up to where the tracks were.
“Shit,” I said.
It was tall before but it seemed to to grow quite a bit now that we were on top of it, as things tend to do. I looked around, felt the wind, felt the morning. We were hundreds of feet up. Chris started walking toward the cliff on the other side of the ravine. Ben followed. I followed, shuffling along a few steps behind. The handrail was this crippled thing that teetered and creaked when I touched it. Whole sections of it were missing. I knew it would give way if I kept holding it so I didn’t. I had to look down as I walked because many of the ties were rotten or broken or missing. I did my best to keep myself right above the I-beam, just like we used to do on the Canterbury bridge trestle back home. The idea was you could catch yourself if the tie you were on broke.
Now and then there would be a snap and a chunk of wood would fall. But on we went across these boards blackened by sun and age as they splintered and we pretended it did not scare us.
“Oh man, this is beautiful,” I said.
“I gotta’ shit,” Chris said.
“Yeah it is pretty good,” Ben said.
“I really gotta’ shit,” Chris said.
“Do it, tough guy.”
Chris handed his camera over to Ben who was closest to him.
“I don’t want to drop it,” Chris said.
He was talking about the camera. He unbuckled his belt and pulled his pants to his ankles. He lowered himself so his legs were straight out in front of him and his arms behind him, pressing his palms into the wood for support, like he was doing some kind of pilates move. He spread his legs as much as the pants around his ankles would let him and made a strained face. And it fell, the shit, doing a slow summersault that must have taken five seconds, and finally hit the water. I looked at Ben. He was lowering the camera from his face. He turned to me.
“Got it,” he said.
We walked back to the other end and climbed down. As we got closer to the to the van Chris (the other Chris, the bass player) was moving the spare tire out of his way and climbing out the side door
“Hey there’s a bridge over there. That’s pretty cool,” he said.
“Yeah, get back in the van.”
“Did you guys climb it?”
“Nah,” I said,”Let’s go.”
A few months later we were back in New York, where we lived. Ben, Chris and I were walking to the subway.
“Did you do those other rolls?” Ben asked.
“Yeah, I developed them.”
Chris was a respected alumnus of the NYU photography program and had free access to the dark rooms. He had taken many pictures over the course of the tour and Ben was always on him about developing the last of them.
“So, funny thing happened,” He said. “I was developing them and hung the prints to dry-“
“Yeah?” I said.
“Yeah, and I left to go get a bagel and when I got back the head of the photo department was there.”
“Yeah?” I said.
“Wait, did you go to that shitty bagel place?” said Ben.
“Let him finish his story.”
“He saw the picture Ben took of me shitting off the bridge.”
Ben and I burst out laughing.
“And he showed some of the other professors in the photo department too. So here’s all these people I respect and studied under and-“
“They saw you shit off a bridge.”
“So what did he say?”
“He was like, ‘Nice Chris, real nice.’”
“Man, you can’t get away with anything.”