The muddy waters of the Little Colorado River flowed far below Jenna as she leaned over the bridge, hazel eyes dim and cheeks encrusted in the salt of her dried tears. Such an ugly river, surrounded by ugly rock walls and ugly dirt, all different shades of the same ugly brown. Had the water been a pristine blue, or clear, or even green, then maybe it wouldn’t look so bad.
But it was just ugly. Like life.
She stared until her vision blurred. How far down was the river? It had to be over a thousand feet. Probably no more than two thousand. How long would it take to fall that far? About ten seconds, maybe? Her eyes closed. How long would ten seconds feel as she fell? A flash, a lifetime, or was that all nonsense and it would only feel like what it was–ten seconds?
A car drove past, blowing her long black hair to the side.
This wasn’t how she imagined tragedy to be. Reality wasn’t like the literature she so clung to. No symbolic river with reflective waters that would display her bloodstained mother on the dining room floor, chest shining red; of her murderous father coming toward her with the same bloody knife, leaving only when he thought she, too, was dead; of her grandmother, rotting from the inside, frail with sagging skin and the kindest eyes.
No, she had a muddy river far below, which would serve her better if she lay on the bottom.
“You can’t catch me!” a little girl shouted from her left, but Jenna didn’t open her eyes. She heard the girl’s footsteps behind her and then to her right as she ran across the bridge.
“Oh no! You’re too fast!” a man called out playfully.
Jenna opened her eyes and glanced in his direction. He looked middle-aged, with frosted black hair but no wrinkles yet. Holding his hand was likely his wife, a woman with graying hair tied back behind her thin neck. A guide dog walked beside her, her free hand holding its leash with a gentle grip, and as they got closer, Jenna could see the woman’s clouded eyes.
“Good afternoon, miss,” the man said, stopping.
“Good afternoon,” his wife repeated.
With a small smile, Jenna nodded. “Good afternoon.”
“It’s a beautiful day,” the wife said, taking in a deep breath. “A bit hot, but I don’t mind it. I love summer.”
Jenna resisted the urge to look around at the endless brown around her. “Me too.”
“Mommy! Daddy!” the little girl whined from the other end of the bridge. “Come on! You’re too slow!”
Jenna chuckled. “Have a nice day.”
The man nodded and his wife said, “And you, as well,” before they walked away.
After they walked a few steps, she shook her head and walked in the opposite direction. Not every river was muddy. She’d just have to find a cleaner one.