On the Kapelbrucke at midnight

from an imaginary visit to Lucerne, 2010.

No matter where I walk in this city, I keep coming back to the bridge.

Today I went there after spending a few hours in a subterranean bar, the kind that has rocky stone walls and low vaulted ceilings like the crypt in a church. Sconces were fixed into the walls bearing huge candles that were covered with rippling cascades of dried wax. In the centre of the ceiling hung a chandelier that looked like it was made from the metal rim of a cart-wheel. It was suspended over a wide plank table, but one person sitting at the table still banged his head every time he stood up or leaned over to kiss the woman sitting opposite. I sat in a table tucked into a corner, reading a book and drinking wine, until a gay couple started to have a loud argument. They were a young pretty man and a much older man with grey close-cropped hair, and although I couldn’t understand what they were saying it was clear from the raised voices, the talking at the same time, and the fact that the older man was getting red in the face that things weren’t going well for them. When the younger man abruptly stood and knocked his chair to the floor with a loud bang, I decided to leave.

It was past midnight when I went out into the street. Without really thinking about where I was going, I realized that I was standing near the narrow walkway that leads onto the Kapelbrucke. Only a few people were on the bridge at this hour, compared to the crowds who throng the bridge during the day. Halfway across I stopped to look down at the lights from the bars on the quay reflected on the river in broad brushstrokes of magenta and blue. About ten feet away from me, an old man was doing the same. I don’t know why, but he looked Swiss. I wondered to myself how many times in his life he had walked across this bridge, and how many times he had stopped to look down at the river at night.

Just then, the wind rose, and through the slats in the wood beneath my feet came a smell of diesel oil and fish