Rush hour roar of the flooded river. Traffic of currents and debris. The surface of the water as slick as a windshield - your face wavering in its indifference. Thin trails of mist rising like exhaust smoke. Fallen trees sliding past, slow as limousines.
A little way out, a heron, alert and disdainful, like a traffic warden. Watching the river flow by, senses acutely tuned to the possibility of fish.
You try to catch its eye but it ignores you. You feel trapped. How is this river to be crossed, you wonder. There is no overbridge, no intersection of any sort. You kick your shoes off, advance one timid foot into the flow. The cold rush of the water against your naked toes shocks you, makes you aware of how unprepared you are, how vulnerable. You panic. You draw back.
From the other side of the speeding current the girl is beckoning to you. She seems confused by your hesitation. She is too far away to hear you, so you trace the flow of the river with your hand, then throw up both hands in defeat. She seems taken aback by this, surprised that this should be a problem. She leans over a little, looks upstream. There is no break in the water in sight.
For a while the two of you just stand there, staring at each other, waiting. Like two mirrors distorted by distance. She kicks the grass with her toes. You keep peering upstream, looking for a chance, wanting to demonstrate your alertness. After a while she gestures again, this time raising her hands in a question. What now? she says. Then she beckons to you again. Come on. There's nothing to be afraid of. Come. You shake your head. You repeat your earlier gesture - hand swinging in an expansive curve, taking in the speed of the river, its mighty force, then both hands half raised in the air to say "How can I?". Your helplessness more evident this time.
She is disappointed in you. She lowers her eyes to the ground, shakes her head. You are ashamed. You feel a desperate urge to go across to her. To dive headlong into the river, bisect its expanse with proud manly strokes, arrive dripping at her feet before she has the chance to look up. Your muscles tense, prepare to surrender themselves to the gesture. Your brain says no.
She looks up again. Even from this far away you can see the contempt in her eyes. She shrugs, turns, walks away. As you watch her leave, you think, I could still do it - if I got across right now, I could catch up with her, pretend it was a joke. But you know it's too late. Hope is falling from you, floating away on the swift current of the river like a damp leaf. Once she's out of sight, you sink slowly to the ground, settle down to wait. Sooner or later your chance will come, you know. Sooner or later you'll find a way across. All you have to do is be patient.
With a great flap of its wings, the heron soars away.
After a while, you forget about the girl, about crossing, about where you are. You just sit there and watch the river flow past.