Here& Now

North Lismore. Monday, 7.23pm

Im looking right across to the other side of the river.

She says, Lets go, and starts striding across the old railway bridge that spans the road and river, hopping from sleeper to sleeper. Itll cut perhaps a kilometre off our sunset walk.

But I can see the road below between the sleepers. I dont like that.

We (she and I) have walked from South Lismore past the litter that always lies outside the Tender Center (and its centre, cobber), past the sports grounds where some big lads were kicking a footy around between push-ups and some younger lads and a girl were kicking a footy around between smokes.

Ah, exercise.

By then my jeans were chaffing me. My walking companion suggested I get some track pants. As if. Id rather die of full body chaff than wear track pants outside of a dress-up sexual situation.

Im doing my best to get a bit healthy but a line must be drawn.

The South Lismore Bowlo had sensible folks playing one of humankinds more sensible games.

Theres no physical contact apart from helping a teammate up from the half-kneeling position and the odd touch when beers clink together.

Sure theres lots of drugs but theyre prescribed.

We crossed the old bridge built in 1927 that straddles Leycester Creek. We saw the houseboat. Ive always thought that a houseboat would be excellent accommodation in Lismore. Avoid the renting indignities. Then when you retire you could motor down to Ballina.

I was breathing hard by the time we hit Terania Street. (She said it was lack of fitness. I explained that theres a lot more carbon dioxide and less oxygen in the air these days.)

We strolled North Lismore back streets with its funky cottages and smelled dinner and dope.

We skirted the Italo Club but I didnt see any Italians.

As the sun snuggled the western range we climbed the embankment to the railway bridge.

In years past, a train trundled over this bridge from Lismore to Byron and back every day. It was a pleasant and safe way to go to the beach. But the train is gone.

Government decisions are rarely based on what is good for people. Its got to be good for business. We live in an economy now, not a society. So no more train but more cars on the road; more trucks on the road; more kids on the road; more profit. More tragedy.

In the yellow autumn light Im peering down at the road between the sleepers. My hands are clammy. I take a step to follow her but a panic tightens my chest.

I mean, it was my idea to cross the river on this unused bridge. Im like that. Its an attractive quality I have; spontaneous, adventurous. Thats me.

But I cant do it.

The gaps between the sleepers seem to widen. I cant walk across. I have vertigo, bad. Im scared.

How embarrassing.

I call her back.

We cant cross the bridge, I say.

Why? she asks.

Um...

Um what?

Trains coming.

(I live in hope.)

with S SORRENSEN


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