Ghost Crossing

Geneviéve Hicks

Walking away from the hospital after a long day’s work, crossing over the Lake Washington ship canal on the Montlake bridge. He’s coming towards me quite quickly, too quickly, as far as I am concerned.

I hold my breath.

I can feel his irritation through his mask despite the distance between us. Most likely he is not even aware of me because he seems so focused on trying to get the oncoming traffic to slow down. Traffic won’t stop for him even as he uses obvious hand signals to influence oncoming drivers. He begins to motion more aggressively then leans his body into traffic to force the slow-down.

I taste fear.

Hand signal guy steps off the curb into the roadway, onto the grate of the drawbridge and cars finally start to slow down.

Next, I notice a black guy. A really black black guy with his face mask in hand, instead of on his face, who is jogging towards me and white hand signal guy.

I swallow fear.

I keep walking and move farther away from the road towards the edge of the sidewalk, as far away from the scene as possible. My waist is touching the cold handrail of the bridge.

I am worried for myself and also worried for this black man. His face is friendly and intent. Will the friendliness of his face be an adequate buffer for his black blackness? Running while black is dangerous.

Danger zone.


Walking across the metal grate of this bridge always feels like walking through a danger zone. I am afraid that somehow I’ll slip through one of the small holes into the water beneath. I know this is physically impossible but spiritually, it can happen, it has happened.

The ghosts of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd back to Emmit Till and beyond. The unknown and never to be known. Alongside them are the ghosts of the needless victims of Covid-19.

Hungry for Breath. Hungry for Justice. Hungry for Release.

Walking across the man-made cut in the land, over this waterway, these hungry ghosts pull at me, perhaps strengthened by the ancestors of this land and water, they reach up and grab hold and pull and keep pulling.

On this part of the bridge it is impossible for me to forget what is happening, all that has happened.

Hungry for Breath. Hungry for Justice. Hungry for Release.


Just then, I notice an old rusted-out truck stalled in the far lane. Blinkers flashing. Hand signal guy bangs on the driver’s side panel of the broken down vehicle, barks some words through the partially open window. I can’t hear what has been shared over the noise of rubber tires on metal grate but the driver’s face softens and the shape of his rigid torso softens. These two guys, hand signal guy and black guy, one masked and one holding his mask, not six feet apart—are teaming up to help the driver.

Fear subsides.

Out of nowhere, maybe from beneath the grate, the third ghost of a man appears behind the stalled-out truck. The three of them are now pushing the vehicle across lanes of traffic, off the bridge. We are now all walking, in tandem at the same pace, in the same direction. The three men are bantering as they push the vehicle towards the curb.
Their good deed and instantaneous camaraderie buoy my spirits. The grip on my heart loosens and shadows of my long day at the hospital in the height of multiple pandemics fall away. We are off the metal grate and the rumbling subsides, I can hear them now. Hand signal guy says, “It’s such an easy thing to do and it makes such a big difference.”

Tears roll down my face.

I am breathing.

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