This place is usually quiet. A few cars occasionally park here to enjoy the water from behind curved glass. A couple of trains rumble by roughly on schedule, as long as adventurous ships don’t get too close. The distillery is closed, and you might spot a cyclist if you stay here for a few minutes, but otherwise, the railway bridge is a peaceful spot in the evening. Actually, it’s a beautiful place where you can observe the slightly restless water, which gazes back with sparks, birds, and ships. And even if you’re nearsighted, and even if you shouldn’t have the inclination, you can’t avoid noticing the opposing side of the city that faces toward the sun and has been allowed to have green parks by the water’s edge.
But today, it’s not about that place. And in a way, it’s not really about the railway bridge either. Today, it’s about a group of people of all ages and backgrounds who have sought refuge by the water – not to admire the view, but to look at something that’s kind of there and kind of not at the same time.
They’re sitting under the bridge. And around the bridge. On their way to the bridge, yet seemingly never on their way away from it. In a long row along the harbor, huddled together with their backs to the waves. Or along the bridge’s foundation, leaning against the concrete. Sitting on the nearest curb. On scooters, bikes, skateboards, or with a portable chair. And perhaps with a beer in hand, since you’re here.
Teenagers are probably the loudest, and today’s fashion dictates that young guys need a BMX bike, a cap, and a backpack with a Bluetooth speaker blasting out a decent bass. It’s new to me that 14-year-olds are now supposed to be cycling DJs, but maybe it’s the first part of the metamorphosis on the way to a pimped-out VW. Or maybe there’s just something I don’t understand. Probably the latter, since I need tweezers to put oil in my Toyota Aygo and I own a Windows Phone.
But enough about that matter. There’s noise. “Dragonair!” shouts a fair-haired girl, and immediately, there’s a stir in the pond. People scurry around, looking down at their hands with concentrated expressions. “Damn, I missed it,” one says. “How much combat power did yours have?” asks another. A third just sits there, caressing a glowing surface on which a blue line dances. If you came straight from – let’s just say 1998 – you’d probably get a little nervous about what was going on.
But first, you’d notice the cars. Never before have so many and such diverse vehicles been parked under the bridge, on their way to the bridge, and along the roads adjacent to it. Some cars idle. Gotta keep warm. And even more importantly: have power. Power has never been so essential, and in several places, people curse loudly about battery levels and sold-out power banks.
The cleverest drivers have been here for a while and are holding onto the good, marked spots with a view of the water. But they’re not here to kiss or talk about how dumb the boss was today. They’re also not here to eat a grilled hotdog or take a break before the next shift. In fact, they’re not really here in a way. And yet, they’re very much here. Since there’s a pile of cars behind them, they can’t get away from here.
Middle-aged people sit behind windows and gaze into their laps, their fingers caressing something that you can’t see due to the car door. If they idled anywhere else where so many kids were running around, it might seem a bit suspicious, but not tonight. Tonight, you can fiddle, stroke, pet, and press as wildly as you want. Because everyone’s doing it, and almost no one sees it. But in a server room that no one knows the location of, there’s a jingle and jangle of small binary creatures hopping and flickering in time with green and yellow LEDs.
It’s probably beautiful to look at too.