Roosted on or around the low concrete railings rimming either side of the two-lane Guilford Avenue bridge over the Indianapolis Water Company Canal, a.k.a. “Rainbow Bridge,” erected in 1906 at the behest of Broad Ripple village trustees to demonstrate municipal suitability for annexation by the city of Indianapolis. Designated a critical habitat following the culmination of the Rebuild Indy revitalization initiative, which displaced Bridge People by raising the bench-like railings to prohibit reclining, in accordance with current pedestrian height requirements.
Identifiable visuals for Bridge People demonstrate high degrees of variance including: skunked neon hairstreaks, predator dreadlocks, chinstrap beards, satan goatees, bull-ringed septums, saucered earlobe plugs, hoops or studs in the eyebrows or nipples or genitalia or puncturing the lower sag between REDACTED; and tattoos showing prejudice against barbed wire or tribal designs in favor of sleeves depicting garden fairies, skull pirates, vengeful angels, fanged cupids, slime monsters, tuftear goblins, brassknuckle Jesus, and other vulgarities. When an embedded researcher queried the rationale for assaulting the natural beauty of youth with such costuming, one young male made as if to batter her with a skateboard and several others prepared to throw her into the canal for the stated purpose of “washing off the stupid.” The only nonthreatening explanation came from Hopeless Jill, 17: “At least our costumes are on the outside.” Hopeless Jill shaved her head in patches and grew bangs long enough to chew on.
These adornments and modifications appear selected to reject the expectations of an external class, characterized by the pronoun they, which Bridge People pronounce with startling venom in reference to (1) city, state, and federal representatives, including uniformed peace officers, known in local cant as fucking fascists; (2) taxpayers, so-identified by the appearance of gainful employment or land ownership; and (3) any and all figures of authority including school teachers, social workers, healthcare providers, diversity researchers, and especially parents.
The question of ancestry continues to trouble anthropologists, and is unlikely to be resolved until surviving Bridge People submit to DNA testing. To date, embedded observation appears insufficient. Few topics muzzle Bridge People as much as an investigation into parents. In the words of Slow Ride, 15: “Quit asking me. It’s like, dude, if you wanna know where my baby teeth went, talk to the tooth fairy.” In the opinion of this survey, the current fragmentation of this population due to habitat destruction authorizes coercive methods of obtaining genetic material for definitive proof that Bridge People descend mainly from middle- to upper-middle class Hoosiers possessing the means and personal disinterest to fuel their children’s recalcitrant lifestyle.
As a rule, Bridge People pursue no tradeable skills, but serve as a breeding community for buskers, swindlers, street magicians, sketch artists, tattooists, and drug pushers across urban environments nationwide. Socially acceptable pastimes observed by researchers include juggling, hackysack, spitting competitions for distance and accuracy, drawing violent cartoons, puffing marijuana cigarettes, slapping djembes, vandalizing public property, and sex acts in obscure outdoor locales. If any one did express gentle interest in contributing positively to wider society, he would be hooted down by his fellows. The prevailing intracultural sensibility suggests a Bridge Person cannot remain real while engaging in economic intercourse with the world outside the Guilford Avenue bridge.
Common courtesy, according to the Bridge People, serves only as a mask to disguise the blackness which lies like a pit in the heart of all things. Thus, to be real is to acknowledge a human’s truest wicked natures, evidenced by the affectionate terms of address – scumfuck, dirtbag, suckrat – regularly employed by one Bridge Person to another. In this way, what passes in normative society as intolerable rudeness becomes, among the Bridge People, a testament of intimacy and trust. A scowl is considered more real than a smile, to scoff is more real than to enjoy, and profound dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs is more real than any slippery expression of contentment. The only functionable insults are fascist, racist, and good American.
None at present. Population deemed non-essential. From Tom Vanderbris, chairman of the Diversity Conservation Council, in his annual address:
“We are speaking here of a class of individuals who find our fair city of Indianapolis so onerous, so devoid of honest merit, so empty of true-to-life drama, so starved for any redeeming interest whatsoever, that they espouse no deeper desire than to, and I quote, get outta this place if it’s the last thing we ever do. Ladies and gentlemen of the council, let us take them at their word, and with smiling Hoosier hospitality say to these Bridge People, ‘We will not stand in your way.’”
From David Engels, Broad Ripple Neighborhood Association executive director, at his keynote speech to the Indiana Gourd Society Easter Luncheon:
“…and since the revitalization this bridge is a pleasant little spot where kids feed the ducks and spandexed bikers zoom by. Why, in the old days they’d’ve gotten a wheel kicked out.”
Excerpted from the introduction to the statehouse publication Indiana: A Celebration by public historian Russell Frederick:
“Only a singly insensitive mind, a dullened soul, a pancaked spirit, could gaze upon our broad fields of corn bowing in the wind at harvest like caped armies, and yet pine for the grey asphalt canyons of an urban wild.”
Dedicate an honorary plaque at the southwest corner of the Guilford Avenue bridge memorializing the location on behalf of the Diversity Conservation Council as “The ‘Bridge People Bridge’ Heritage Site.”
Matt P. Jager’s nonfiction has been published in travel guides, newspapers, and magazines around the world. His fiction is published here.