In 1979, Le Pont des Arts collapsed when a barge travelling the Seine collided with the piers of the bridge. It was closed and unoccupied at the time so there were no injuries. No physical injuries. The barge captain suffered a torrent of unending jokes until he sold his barge and moved to a village far from any navigable bodies of water.
It was a rainy October day in 2013 that Thierry and Simone came to the place on the bridge where precisely one year earlier they had attached a lock to symbolize the permanence of their love. Theirs was not an original act. Years of locks were encrusted on the bridge’s handrails like a tumor. They huddled together under a black umbrella barely big enough for one person. Simone’s right arm and shoulder became drenched while Thierry remained dry.
It took Thierry ten minutes to find it, but beneath a year’s aggregation of other locks he found the lock with his and Simone’s names written on it. “This lock came with two keys,” he said, holding the lock. “I threw the first in the water; I kept the other until I was sure whether we were meant to be together forever.”
Simone looked at Thierry kneeling before her. Now that she was holding the umbrella, she was shielded from the rain. The rain had plastered Thierry’s hair to his skull while he had looked for the lock. Simone knew he had been up to something when he had insisted they come to the bridge despite the rain; she thought she understood now.
Thierry opened the lock and threw it into the river. He rose to his feet quickly, putting his arm between Simone and the bridge railing as if to keep her from jumping.
Simone said nothing. She walked past Thierry, taking the umbrella with her.
“Where are you going?” Thierry asked.
She ignored him. Five meters away, she knelt down and began searching through the locks on that part of the railing, leaving the umbrella upside down on the pavement. When Thierry reached her side, she held up a brass and steel padlock. Written on it with red nail polish were the words Alain et Simone, 12 Octobre 12. Exactly one week after Thierry had put the lock with his and Simone’s names on the bridge.
“You had an extra key. I had an extra lover.”
The barge captain who was responsible for the collapse of Le Pont des Arts found work as a truck driver. He worked at that job for two years. He was killed when, distracted by a billboard showing the locks of Le Pont des Arts, his truck veered into the concrete pillar of a highway overpass. The overpass suffered only minor damage.
D. A. Hosek is a student in the University of Tampa MFA program. His fiction has previously appeared in The Southampton Review.