The Lucky Ones
Before Tinder and Grinder and OKCupid, we had the East End Bridge. It was not a land of love but a land of fucks and you could give as many, or as few, as you wanted. But you came there to lie in a bed of used condoms, shit-covered leaves, and broken glass with one intention: to give, or receive, at least one fuck. Alcohol and drugs were merely appetizers, and the only restaurant you go to just for appetizers is TGI Fridays. All others either win or lose you with the main course.
Summer after summer, the East End Bridge boasted a loyal customer base. Even in the wintertime, you could find local kids embracing each other, panting little clouds of their warm live breath into the air, stretched out on a strip of cardboard if they were lucky.
A mediocre meal is better than no meal at all. Everybody’s got to eat.
Or, as my mom used to say, “Everybody’s got needs.”
We went there because most of us didn’t have our own bedrooms like kids in the movies. Most of our parents didn’t have jobs, at least not steady ones, which meant none of us had our own cars, let alone hot rides with leather seats.
Privacy was just another middle-class luxury we couldn’t afford.
You either went all the way under the East End Bridge or saved yourself for marriage like Pastor Jenkins commanded from the pulpit of our otherwise-abandoned strip mall church:
Chastity is a virtue. Chastity is divine. Chastity will save you from hellfire.
I had planned on saving myself for marriage less out of a concern for hell than a concern for cutting myself on a smashed bottle under the East End Bridge.
It was no bed of roses, even that time our biology teacher, Ms. Russell, tossed fifteen bouquets over the edge. Her fiancé sent the flowers, one for each month they’d dated, after she found him cheating with his niece.
A few of us were huddled around a bonfire that night when it started raining petals and thorns. While the blanket of red and green improved the scenery a little, our spot under the bridge was still just as sorry as it had ever been.
Yes, I’d claw myself out of town if I had to and lose my virginity someplace clean and quiet, anywhere but there. I didn’t think that was too much to ask.
Then I saw Pastor Jenkins fucking my mom doggy-style not even a week later.
Most kids hear their parents having sex at some point, but few have the misfortune of catching them in the act. Best case scenario, it’s Mom and Dad under the sheets with a careless moan here and there. His cock and her snatch remain a mystery.
Worst case scenario, it’s Mom with someone old enough to be your grandpa, both of them playing it rough with every wrinkle and varicose vein in plain sight.
Her tits are flopping faster than your cousin flips hash browns at the Waffle House down the road, his ass looks like something that belongs on a 100-year-old toad, and both parties are breathing so hard you’re convinced they’re about to break.
It’s poignant when the pastor cries, “Jesus!”
After that, I thought nothing of “fornicating” under the East End Bridge.
His name was Ned, he was in my Spanish class, and he rode me on a flattened Budweiser box.