Last week, part of the Pont Des Arts in Paris collapsed. It collapsed, quite literally, under the weight of aspirations and expectations of everlasting love; the Pont Des Arts was one of the famous bridges upon which young lovers would affix locks to signify the foreverness of their affection.
I wonder, sometimes, how many of these couples are still together. I wonder about how the relationships behind each one of those locks came to an end. I wonder what stories each of those locks could tell, stories of kisses and fights and embraces and touches and joy and sorrow.
Many years ago, I affixed a lock on the Pont Des Arts during a trip to Paris. The lock was unassuming — a simple Dudley padlock that we had taken off our luggage, if I remember well — and it blended in with all the others on the bridge. I couldn’t tell you, anymore, where on the bridge to find it, or even how we had managed to make a rudimentary inscription of our initials. (Not content with simply using a marker, I think we used a nail file, instead.)
I do remember thinking that the lock was a sign of permanence.
I was young, naive, overly-exuberant; I hadn’t yet fully understood that some things fade, get lost, disappear, whether they be locks or relationships. I didn’t know then that a lasting love wasn’t like a lock on a bridge, but instead more like a multitude of ropes and ties that need tightening, that need care and work to continue to stay strong, stronger than any lock could be. I realize now that the metaphor of the lock is too passive, too laissez-faire to adequately show the life, the vividness of love; I did not know that then.
There is a tiny part of me that hopes that my Dudley padlock was washed away when the railing of the Pont Des Arts collapsed. There is some poetry in thinking of the weight of a past love crumbling and then being washed away, being cleansed and purged.
Mostly, though, I don’t quite care what has happened to that lock after all these years. It was a remnant I had forgotten until now, that I have grown past. It was a weight I had stopped carrying long ago, a weight best borne by a bridge that has the luxury of crumbling into the Seine when it can not bear anymore. I do not — we do not — have that luxury.
I am done stopping halfway across a bridge to affix a lock; I am happier now, walking across that bridge, hand in hand with the one I love, excited by what we will instead discover on the other side, together.