by Luke Gittos
The moneyed student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who had traveled across two continents to have his wedding photograph taken on Tower Bridge, felt the thud run through his vibrating bride and into his shoulder, like the marbles on string which swung on his desk in his dorm. He saw the flash of the runner’s lycra and heard, for a moment the treble bleeding from his earphones as he ran past. The boy shouted to his photographer to take the photo again.
The Peruvian mother, away abroad having saved the money freed up from the absence of her children, held her Iphone up and smiled into the screen. Behind her, St Pauls framed her face like she had imagined. As she pressed capture, she saw colour in the back of the screen blocking out the Cathedral’s magisterial dome. She turned her head to watch the runner continue towards the Tower of London. He now lived as a blur in her phone memory. When she raised the camera again and smiled, she realised the runner had not reached the other side, but was stood looking at her, like he was waiting for her to take the photograph again.
Photograph after photograph was ruined by the runners. They would stop and stretch for twenty minutes, moving with a photographer’s lens. They would throw spit over their shoulder landing too conveniently on tourist faces. They would star jump inches in front of embracing couples, staring straight into their eyes like the intense third person in a ménage a trois. When the tourists stopped coming, they turned to the boats, and when their running passage was prevented by the raising of the bridge, they would gather dog waste in wheelbarrows and use the strength of their legs to propel them up the almost vertical road to tip the wheelbarrow onto the passing ship. The open-top cruise trade in London suffered, and was then redundant.
Soon, the Bridge was only used for running. No one came to start their adult memories, there were no more formative moments. There was only feet pounding on the bridge surface. In time, the feet wore away the iconic beige and blue bones of the bridge, and the crossing collapsed into the Thames.
Now, Tower Bridge is two erections of rubble. Where there was a connection, now there is a gap. Tourists stay away from the area, preferring photographs by any other Bridge. The runners stick to one side of the river, unafraid of the thud of their own heartbeat, unapologetically alone. They know their victory, primed, refreshed. Their exhaustion lifts their heads to the sky, striving for a personal best.
Luke Gittos is a writer and runner from London.