The Bridge Watcher

There once was a woman who lived with her husband in a small and primitive wood and metal house. Their home skirted the edge of a road leading out of town. A bridge stood just across from their little hut, the murky river flowing below it. Though not an official caretaker, this woman has kept watch over the bridge for many years. She has seen people walk across, cycle across and even some who dare to ride their scooters across. She has also been witness to people falling through the bridge.

Four years ago, a Cambodian man fell to his death while walking across the bridge. Soon after, the woman heard a voice calling out from the bridge in the middle of the night; she awoke, went outside and did not see anyone. It was then that she realized that a spirit had taken over the bridge – presumably the spirit of the deceased (or his ancestors).

Shortly after this incident, two boats crashed into each other in the river below and the people onboard were injured. The spirit on the bridge, she believes, may have caused the accident.

And then, two years later, a barang (foreigner) fell through while cycling across. She noticed that many Khmer people had gathered on and around the bridge – but nobody tried to help. Her guess was that they simply did not know what to do or who to call.

Once she could no longer hear the foreigner’s screams, the woman who lives near the bridge was certain that she had died. But then she saw the ambulance and the Khmer man speaking in English,  and she was surprised to discover that the woman who fell had somehow survived.

The woman who watches the bridge; who watches the people who cross over the river; who watches for a spirit she knows still lingers in that place; watches – with equal parts relief and curiosity –  as the threesome pepper her with questions, give thanks and watch – with equal parts awe and disbelief – the bridge that (though once was closed has been reopened) should only, unquestionably, irrevocably, be condemned.

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4 Comments

    1. Was she ever! She said that she didn’t think I survived after that fall, so she was actually grateful that I stopped by with her neighbors to ask all these questions. I wish I spoke Khmer… 🙂

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