Damon Young: I defeated the shoulderless demon named Chesapeake Bay Bridge

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You know that feeling of tech dominance when you’re using Waze or another navigation app and you miss your estimated arrival time? I felt this a few weeks ago, driving 90 minutes from Washington, DC to Chestertown, Md. I had driven from Pittsburgh to DC for an event, spent two days in a hotel, then I drove to speak at Washington College in Chestertown. I had to get to a creative writing class at 9 a.m., so I left my hotel at 6:30 a.m. — inserting a time cushion in case I got swallowed up by the notorious Beltway traffic. But my commute was so linear (and, at times, illegal) that I beat Waze by seven minutes, arriving at 8 a.m.

OK, that’s overkill. I didn’t nearly die. However, I felt like I was almost dead. Because about an hour into my ride, I crossed a “bridge” that is less of a “bridge” and more of a “broken escalator from hell”. They call this instrument of terror, this crossbowman of dread, this double-hinged bayonet of doom the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and my genetic code was irreversibly altered after crossing it. My name, before this transit, was Damon. Now they call me The Bridgeman.

When it opened in 1952, the bridge, which spans 4.2 miles across the bay, connecting the eastern and western shores of Maryland, was the longest continuous structure over water in the world. Tens of thousands of cars drive through it on an average weekday, and it has brought many social and economic benefits to the region, particularly to the east coast. It’s really a marvel of architectural rigor, which I would probably have appreciated more if it weren’t for Pale Death as well.

The first sign by which I would soon be summoned and committed to testify on the Bridge of Terabithia was literally a sign. And not just a road sign alerting me, but an electronic wind advisory. I live in a place known as the City of Bridges. I come across so many on my daily commute that I couldn’t even tell you when the bridges end and the walk begins. But I have never seen wind warning. You would assume that, when building a bridge, a question like “Will a strong breeze blow them into the endless void?” or “Will they be undone by creeping darkness?” or “Do the swallows talk, or are they out of tune during the descent?” would be considered by the engineers. But apparently this was built by Jigsaw from “Saw”.

“Does that mean I should, uh, turn around?” I wondered as I accelerated. I don’t know who or what was driving my car at the time, but it wasn’t me. I didn’t have an agency. I was controlled by a propelling force pushing me into Mephistopheles’ mouth. (I was also very hungry.)

Upon first landing on the beast, I was struck by its narrowness. There was no margin for error on this shoulderless demon. If a pigeon sneezed in my direction, I would have fallen into the abyss. And then it kept going up and up until I couldn’t see anything but water and a fog that I hoped was heaven but was probably just Satan’s flatulence . It was like riding a roller coaster. But instead of tokens, I paid for this ride with my soul.

But then, as I reached Monster Peak, I saw the soft, gentle land again. Your eyes had never seen such glory! Could it be a mirage, an apparition, an ultimate temptation of an amused and vaguely British Lucifer? Or would a wretch like me be saved by his amazing grace? (And was it a billboard for all-you-can-eat crab cakes?)

There was no margin for error on this shoulderless demon.

I reached campus about half an hour after crossing the ghost realm. “How was the descent? asked my host. I wondered if I should tell her about the void that lay where my soul had fallen asleep. Would she even believe that I had seen the archdemon? Couldn’t she see that she was talking to a man forged by fire? And what if I dared to allow him to witness the truth? Had she even been saved?

“It was easy. I had a good time,” I replied. “If that’s no problem, I’d like to have something to eat quickly before class.” had a chance to answer, I opened my mouth as wide as a swimming pool and devoured it whole.

I am not The Bridgeman. No I a m The Chesapeake Bay Bridge now, and you all will kneel before me or prepare to meet your fate.

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