There is a bridge that spans a river in Austria. A woman must come to a conclusion.
|In Innsbruck, Austria, there is a green railway bridge that spans the river Inn. It’s a cold river, its waters flow down from the alpine peaks in the east. On a balcony on the north bank, overlooking the river there stands a woman. Her eyes are tired, she has not slept all night. It is early in the morning, the sun has not risen yet. Her hair is undone, yesterday’s make up still clings to her, her red smudged lipstick painting a smile, where there is none. She turns her back to the river and pulls the wide glass door shut behind her. The wind is getting too cold. Tightening her robe, he begins to mutter the words of a lullaby to herself. She has not heard it in years, but this morning her lips form the words without her permission.
The fridge is barren, except for a bottle of wine and a half empty carton of milk. She will need to finish that today or it will go off. She closes the fridge door enough to trigger the light to go out. The small clicking sound it makes when it does always soothes her. She takes a cup out of the cupboard, but sets it back in again immediately, turning instead to the half empty glass of wine she left on the counter last night. She drinks it in one gulp and opens the fridge again. The milk is pushed aside. She fills her glass with the sweet smelling white wine. As she drinks, she avoids touching last night’s lipstick marks. She does not want to touch her own DNA that is stuck to the glass.
The calls will start soon. She sits down on the bed, facing the wide glass doors and the river beyond. First, she needs a shower. Then over to the shop. She needs some food, she cannot possibly go another day without eating proper food. And a bit of wine, there’s not much left in her bottle. From where she is sitting, she can see the high rise blocks and shabby apartment buildings on the south side of Innsbruck. They are run down and appear completely lifeless, this early on a Sunday morning. If she were to lean forward, the green bridge would come into view. She never does lean forward.
Her wine does not last long. She is still muttering the words of that ancient lullaby, as the ringing of the first call breaks the silence, crushing it. She jumps at the sound. The noise destroys her lullaby and her will to pretend. She turns to her computer and turns it on, finding her favourite radio station. A station without talking. She does not care for people who talk. The phone is silent for a moment, then rings out again, shrill, and loud, and piercing, and full of menace. She turns the volume on her computer’s speakers up and stuffs the phone under the pillow. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.
It takes her fifteen minutes to get yesterday’s red smudges off her lips, shower and get fresh lipstick back on. She finishes off her wine before leaving the apartment. The calls still ring out and break her silence. She does not answer. Not today. As the morning progresses, the sun comes out from behind the mountains, shining into her bedroom. She does answer the calls now. To silence the ringing noise. And because she knows that she has to. Because she knows she will regret it if she does not. Because she knows it’s no use anyway. She refuses to make any arrangements. That much resistance she does allow herself. All the same, she knows she will regret this come Friday.
Noon comes, and with it the fresh bottle of wine is opened. She gets through two full glasses, before falling asleep, her back turned to the river. After her nap, as she begins to sober up from the morning’s drinking, she does arrange a meeting. Reluctantly, she gets herself ready and puts a darker shade of red on her lips. The happiness she once felt when doing this has long since vanished. There had been a time when she had enjoyed this. The thrill of it excited her, every call was a compliment. A testimony, proof that she must be special, and young, and desirable and oh so beautiful. He will be here in a few minutes.
She greets him with a wide smile and hugs him affectionately. It’s not so bad, after all, she thinks. At least, for an hour, she will have some company. As he showers, she watches the river flow beneath her, wide and cold.
She wonders what it would be like, in that water. This same question had brought her to the green railway bridge once before. In winter. She had stood in the freezing wind for hours, her eyes bloodshot and her gaze unsteady. The bridge had held her, protected her from any serious harm. The raw, green metal was cold against her skin. Too cold to bear. The bridge had carried her safely towards the morning, when the sun had risen, and the warmth had returned. She has not looked at the bridge since.
He interrupts her musings when he comes to her and embraces he naked body. ‘What are you humming?’ She had not been aware of humming anything. ‘It sounds like you were humming a lullaby I used to know as a child. It’s lovely. Will you sing it to me, after?’ She nods and pulls herself away from the water. ‘Of course. Will I leave the curtains open?’
The music is turned off. She pours another glass of wine. Her lipstick is messed up. It covers her cheeks. The calls are still coming in, but she ignores them. She types frantically, her computer screen yelling at her as it does every single evening, when she becomes desperate, and when something within her wants to fight. Fight the calls and what they bring. She tries to search for something else, something she can do, but the screen is mocking her with hundreds of things she cannot do. Thousands of things she would fail at. Millions of things she could never accomplish. She is trying, always trying to get her head around the fact that she can never leave the river and the bridge behind her. And slowly, whatever was trying to fight this knowledge within her goes to sleep again. Her eyes falls shut. Something registers in the back of her mind, and tries to catch her attention, but it is too late. She is already asleep. Her hand slips off the glass. It is half full, like last night’s.
She awakes a few hours later, and empties her glass. Wriggling her mouse, she wakes up her computer. There is something. A few lines, she reads them again and again. She refreshes the website, and holds her breath, as the page disappears. The lines will not come back, she is sure of it. They will not reappear. And if they do, they will be altered, painfully altered to show the same thing every other page shows her: You cannot do this. You are not good enough. You are not welcome here.
But the lines do not change. They still read the same. She reads the words that stand out to her again, carefully.
Outgoing Calls. Outgoing. Outgoing. Outgoing Calls.
It’s a twenty minute bus ride away. On Innsbruck’s brighter side. Open to all applicants. No experience necessary. Outgoing calls. Outgoing.
It’s a revelation. The phone will not ring. She will be the one calling.
Her phone rings, breaking the silence, shrill and loud and intimidating. It calls her, shouts at her, screaming. No, you do not make the calls. You get them. And you live by them. And you let them burn you. She throws her phone onto the bed. And then she submits her cover letter and CV, an email she has had prepared and ready to send for months. She falls asleep again, her hand resting on the empty glass.
The next morning breaks and the sun slowly rises over the mountain tops. She pours a bit of milk into her vanilla flavored tea and looks out the glass doors, watching the water flow by. Her face is bare of all make up. She looks young now. Her phone rings for the first time today. She closes her eyes, trying not to hear it. It will not stop. It will never stop to let her have a moment’s peace. She stops humming her lullaby and answers the call.
Yes. She can come for an interview at five.
She takes a sip of her tea and smiles at the green railway bridge that spans the river Inn. She greets it like an old friend.