As he later remembered it, the air under the bridge was always ten degrees cooler than the day above, summer spring, winter fall. Didn't matter. The creek ran mostly shallow, water flowing over round stones like fossilized teeth, though an eddy around the center piling had dug out a deep pool which collected branches, pop cans, and plastic bags tangled in a slick of foam. A bank of wet gravel and sand sloped down on the north side of the creek, too damp to sit on but open and flat: a blank canvas.
After school most days he would ride his bike down to the creek, four miles past blank, staring houses that all looked the same. The sheltered bank was a place to be alone, to mope and to long. She lived just a quarter mile away in a subdivision hidden from view by a line of trees on the creek's edge. He could sense her house over there beyond boiling clouds of gnats which rose off the water when the heat pressed down in the afternoon. He knew she came down to the bridge too. He'd seen her once from far up the road, climbing up from below, gone by the time he arrived. He thought of it as her place too. Maybe they'd even run into each other some day. An accidental meeting in a shared refuge. The start of something perfect.
As the year wore on, the bridge served more and more as his place of sanctuary, a safe place to conjure. She'd appear in his thoughts and they'd talk about the trivially significant. Somehow she always wanted to discuss whatever was on his mind. His insights always impressed her. He was earnest and wise and she adored him for it. Then there were the days he arrived at the bridge to find her already there, beset by hooligans. Aimless drifters with black, rotted teeth. Maybe there'd be a bit of rope on the bridge and he'd swing down from above. One day he'd wield a sword, the next double-fisted .45s — or more often only his own limbs. Kick one backwards, arms windmilling, into the eddy. Send another flying onto the rocks with a well-timed upper cut. An eighth grade boy against men, but faced with his fury they'd flee, bleeding and bruised. Then she'd fall into his arms in relief and gratitude. Her hero, swinging down on his rope to save the day. No wonder their passion took root in the sandy lee of the bridge across from an eddy full of trash, alone though he was.
Spring gave way to summer and school let out, cutting him off from the one place he could count on seeing her in the flesh. He found himself spending more and more time under the bridge, anxious and adrift in fantasy. The shape of her face began to merge with the reflections of light off the water, and in response she teased him in his mind that he should declare his feelings for her in some lasting way, a way that anyone could see. So he waded into the shallow water and gathered creek-rounded boulders as big as his head. He placed them on the damp, sandy bank in the shape of his desire, "I love you," spelled out in stone. He left them, validated by a syllogism of dreams, convinced that these stones would be the thing that would bring her to him at last. He returned each day after he finished his chores, indifferent to his friends, and talked his long talks with his beloved. Saved her life again and again. Then one Saturday he couldn't go, pinned down by some pointless to-do of his mother's, family picnic or some crap. But Sunday he biked out to the bridge again. Four long miles through dead air dense with vapor.
She'd been there. She'd seen the stones, knew them as hers. He didn't even have to name her name. She saw the shapes of the words, and she responded. Fossilized teeth jagged in the sand. "Stop," they now read. "Please..."
— Bill Cameron