For eight months, I have been walking to and from the station on work days. It’s only an eight minute walk, so it’s nothing I can’t handle when it’s raining, windy, freezing cold or when it’s a glorious spring day. I’m not confident about the hot, humid days when it reaches over 40 Celsius for days on end in the middle of summer though…we’ll see how that goes, when the time comes.
Part of that walk involves a set of stairs. They take me from the top of a bridge to the road below. They are narrow and steep. And what’s more…the devil has staked his claim there!
In the morning, I don’t use the steps as I have to go to the post office first, so I walk over the bridge from another direction. In the afternoon, I walk down the steps and head straight to the station. In recent weeks, I’ve noticed something that I can only say is a phobia. Yet, in hindsight, I know the phobia has been there since the first morning I walked up and over that bridge, passing the small gap that leads to the steps going down, down, down.
The bridge is quite busy as there are only three places where people and cars can get from one side of the city to the other – two bridges and an underpass. On the bridge I use, pedestrians are protected from traffic by a guard rail on one side and a tall fence on the other (to stop people throwing boulders or themselves in front of the trains passing below). Two people can walk side by side on the narrow path. The only opening is the one to the steps. But where does the devil come into it, you may be asking.
Well, it’s quite simple. Every morning, I start ascending the bridge and everything is fine. As the gap to the steps gets nearer and nearer, I feel the door to the underworld beginning to open. I feel the scorching heat escaping, rushing at me. I feel the evil presence patiently waiting for me to approach and falter. As I draw parallel with the opening the devil whispers unattractive suggestions in my ear and tries to grab my ankle and pull me towards the steep drop. He tries to encourage me to stumble and fall. He wants it to happen so badly. He’s obsessed with it. He laughs the entire time, of course, and that’s the only thing that helps me take those two steps that will take me past the opening, past the devil himself. Then I’m safely between the fence and the guard rail again and can leave the devil and his evil playground behind me.
That’s in the morning, but then I must negotiate the devil again after working all day. When my mind is tired. When I’m not so alert!
Coming from the opposite direction, I can feel the bridge shake with anticipation as a train passes beneath me every afternoon and the opening to the steps draws nearer. This time there’s no laughter because the devil knows that I must walk straight into his open jaws. This pleases him immensely. I can hear him coaxing me closer and closer. I know he’s waiting for me to reach the top step. And then, I’m there, balancing on the edge of this world and the one below. I pause briefly because I really don’t want to succumb to the beckoning, but sometimes it’s so difficult to stay focused and sure footed. For a split second, I wonder if I’m strong enough to resist the devil’s coaxing, but then my foot finds the first step down and I know I’ve won the battle once again because it’s only that first step where the evil one has any power, after that I’m free to rush to the station and catch the train home.
But the next morning, he’s there again…waiting, tormenting, convinced that one day it will be his turn to win…and the battle starts again.