Even with the city lights of Jacksonville overwhelming the stars the nighttime view of the city from our vantage high above the Saint Johns is lovely.
Despite the concrete barricade that segregate pedestrians and cyclists from the four lanes of automobiles I feel vulnerable walking with the onrushing traffic to our backs. I shake my head and emit a self-deprecating cough at the level of hubris in my unreasoned heightened discomfort. Is the risk from traffic greater with cars coming toward us from behind rather than in our field of vision? Sure. Is the likelihood of us seeing said hypothetical car barreling through the concrete bulwark, us assessing the situation and then having the wherewithal to leap from the bridge to the water multiple stories beneath us in time to prevent becoming a collision statistic higher with us walking with rather than against traffic greater? Of course, but the difference in perceived versus actual risk is so slight that my increase in worry defies logic. Knowing the illogic of my fears does nothing to lower my sense of unease and I shake my head in amazement at my ability to make Lilliputian issues into Brobdingnag worries. I sigh and Jean looks at me, head tilted to the side.
“Nothing,” I tell her, reaching for her hand, “just me being me.”
We arrive on the bridge’s far side having safely crossed the river and rather than continue down the ramp toward our hotel Sean turns right onto a narrow concrete pedestrian bridge that takes us in the opposite direction of the Hampton Inn. “Where are we going?” I call as I follow along in the rear.
“To that fountain up there,” he responds, flinging his arm forward and flicking his wrist. “It looks pretty.”
I roll my eyes in unobserved, silent protest and follow in the wake of my three companions as we circle the Friendship Fountain and her attendant six pillars that stand sixty degrees apart from one another. Between two sets of pillars are long open air wooden structures and beneath these are end-to-end pairs of wrought iron park benches. I am intrigued because the number of park benches equals the number of sections beneath the structure but rather than distribute the benches equally they are paired together with empty space between.
“Nice Ursula,” I say to Jean, nodding at the structure.
She turns to me with brows raised in inquiry then shakes her head and laughs. “Pergola,” she remonstrates. “You really have a hard time with that word, don’t you?”
She’s right, I do. I laugh too and we startle a couple on a bench who had been intent on feeling the warmth of embrace beneath a cool but pleasant Florida night. We tiptoe away from the young lovers as the woman cinches her blouse shut and the man looks down at the ground waiting for us to depart so they can return to their open-aired PDA.
We walk on, winding our way through the small park, returning to the hotel via a different path than the one we’d used at departing.