Standing atop the railing of a graffiti-riddled and rusty bike trail bridge, a shirtless 50-year-old man with the butt of a cigarette hanging from his lips — probably slightly inebriated — stood poised to take the first dive of the summer into the
Little Miami River 45 feet below. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?
But on this first day of summer, I received the best advice I have ever heard, despite it coming from a sunburned stranger who was about 30 years older than anyone else around.
The above is a typical day for me in my hometown. Anyone who lives within a few miles of Miamiville spends most of his or her summer days under the shade of the Loveland bike trail bridge, just a quick jog along a river path from my house.
So how’d I get here?
When I got off work and walked into my house, my younger brother left me a monosyllabic note on the kitchen counter that told me all I needed to know: “Bridge.”
I ran upstairs and threw a pair of jogging shorts over what I’d designated as my “river swimsuit,” kicked off my shoes and took off for the path in my backyard that dumped me at the bridge.
When I arrived, most of the kids at the base of the bridge were high schoolers, a few college dropouts, my brothers and a handful of my closer friends.
Typically, the bridge isn’t my crowd of people. But in the setting sun, the raunchy graffiti art shines in a way not even a photographer could catch, and the river gleams a golden yellow. To me, it’s a pretty romantic part of my hometown, which I visit at least five times a week during the summer.
A few kayakers come rowing down the river, staring with mouths agape at the man on top of the bridge. No, he’s not jumping off the bridge to end his life; he’s just the ceremonial first bridge-jumper of the season.
True, he is a little unorthodox for the typical bridge dwellers. If you’re 50 and hanging out at the bridge, you’re usually an outsider, bumming around a bunch of high school kids. Still, we all shaded our eyes from the setting sun and waited.
Noticing the he had attracted a crowd, the old man flicked his cigarette butt into the river, cupped his hands around his mouth and, just before he jumped, yelled down to us, “Hey kids, live life on the edge. If you don’t, you’ll just take up too much room in the middle.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself, and so it’s become my senior year motto. I don’t want to have an average senior year that just drops me in “the middle” of everyone else. So I’m going out of my way to do things and go places I typically wouldn’t.
I keep the stranger’s mantra in the back of my mind all the time, especially now that it’s my final quarter. In a mere matter of months, I’ll be sitting behind a desk as a working, professional, tax-paying adult. But for now, I think I’ll just take the plunge.
Cori Sherman is a senior studying journalism and Associate Editor at The Post. Want to go to The Bridge? Email her at email@example.com.