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The Vanderbilt Review

Cranberry Muffin
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Looking down into Echo River, she wished the bridge was taller.

There had been no math involved in Faith’s decision to choose that particular place. If she was smart, she would have chosen the quickest death, a bridge which would have assured the physics between her weight and acceleration was enough to kill her, but Echo was close, and the water wasn’t so cold. She had heard stories of people standing on the Golden Gate Bridge the same way her toes peeked over the railing now and fell and fell and fell. For hours, it seemed, wind crucified them, spreading their arms to either side before the collision with the water below took their life away. It would take half that time—less—for her to die here.

Faith raised the muffin she had nearly forgotten about to her mouth and took a small bite. She allowed the whole craisins to roll around her tongue before her teeth split them in half and poured flavor into her mouth. What crumbs didn’t make it between her lips fell away into the water, unseen long before they struck the surface.

What a waste.

She kept the muffin close to her mouth, sniffed it before lowering it again. A good last smell. Better than the garbage thrown to the sides of the highway which gave way to fungus and moss creeping up the side of the edge. For a moment, she forgot herself. The scent nauseated her, made her lose her balance. Her toes dipped over towards the water. Just for a moment.


Faith turned her head. She had heard no car stopping, no footsteps in puddles of rancid water to alert her to a presence. But here he was. The man was taller than her, with black hair shining and greased in the light from the lamp. Inklings of stubble crept up his chin and towards his ears, where several piercings lined their edges like metallic soldiers. She had always wanted piercings like that.

“Don’t do it!” He was holding an arm out to her, too scared to touch her but not scared enough to back away. “Listen, I don’t know you or anything, but I’m telling you, you’re going to regret it.”

Faith stared at him, at the singular button left undone by his neck, the holes in his jacket. She watched him as her long skirt lapped at her ankles as if coaxing her over the side. “It’s too late for that.”

“It’s not! I swear, it’s not. Look, what’s your name?”

Her name left her mouth with some effort.

“Faith, okay, Faith.” Two hands up now. He was desperate. “There are people who care about you, and, and, love you, Faith, they do!”

This was getting embarrassing.

“Have you ever talked someone down from a bridge before?” She asked him. While she waited, she took another bite from her muffin.

“First time for everything, I guess. I’m Archer.”

“Archer…” She whispered the name and then looked back over the edge to where the blackness of the water met the darkness of the sky. “I’ve always wanted to call myself that.”

Archer released a strained laugh. “Me, too. It’s a cool name.” Without realizing it, he took a step forward. One foot slid against the pavement without leaving it, followed by the other in a slow dance. He knew that Faith was not some wild animal to be tamed, but that didn’t matter. There was nothing left to do. “Do you have parents?”

“No,” she answered quickly. “Yes. A mom. But not really.”

“Why ‘not really’?”

“Because she doesn’t like me. She didn’t like how I dressed. Self-expression was not a big thing for her. She wanted a girl. She wanted someone I’m not.” Her voice became slow and languid. She could hear herself speak but couldn’t remember coming up with the words. She took another bite of the muffin. “I’m not who you think I am.”

Archer wanted to take another step, but his legs refused to bridge the gap between them. “I don’t know who you are, but I want to find out. Because I know that if something ever happened to you, the world would lose someone really important.”

“I don’t know about that. I’ve thought about doing this for a long time. If the world wanted me here, it would have stopped me by now.”

Archer’s legs seemed to finally give him permission to move. He took another step closer, where he caught sight of the remainder of the pastry in Faith’s hand. His eyes trailed up to Faith’s face, where she watched him pensively.

“Is that a muffin?”

Faith glanced down at it and held it up. She rotated it in her fingers before taking a bite again.


“Cranberry…cranberry! That was my favorite type of muffin! I used to get them from Lana’s, that bakery in town. That was before…”

Faith kept staring. “Before?”

“Before…” Archer tried again, but his thought died on his tongue. He threaded a hand through his hair and took a step back. “Jesus, why can’t I remember? Who I was before, I…God. I can’t remember anything.”

Faith sighed and looked down at the muffin she now held in two hands. It was beginning to break apart from the butter, but she let no more crumbs fall into the river.

“Cranberry was my favorite muffin, too,” she said. Her eyes had softened. Somehow, the color seemed to have drained from her irises and dripped into her whites. “They knew me there. They knew my face. My name. The old woman that owned it let me have some of her son’s old clothing. She gave me sweets when my mother wouldn’t. She said I was like her son. She called me her little boy.”

A splintering pain shot up the nerves in Archer’s neck and planted itself in his brain, so intense that he cried out. His head felt suddenly heavy, as if the gravity of the Earth had concentrated itself only on his skull.

“Do you know what she called me?” Faith felt herself smile through the tears which had begun. “She called me Archer.”

Archer cried out again before the pain suddenly stopped. He looked back up. “Wait…no. No, no, no. You’re me, aren’t you?”

Young Archer felt himself sway a little at a gust of wind, but he did not fall. He tried not to pay attention to the skirt, the too-tight blouse his mother had put him in. Instead, he stared down at himself and took in the details, committing them to memory.

“Always have been.”

In a single burst of energy, Archer lunged for the younger version of himself, desperate to grab onto any piece of clothing. Even as he came towards the edge of the bridge, to the hem of the dress, he still couldn’t feel his hands touching anything. It was as though neither of them had ever existed.

“No! No!  That can’t be right, I’m still here!”

“You aren’t real, Archer. You never got to be.” Young Archer held a hand over his head even as he continued to try and tug him from the edge of the bridge. “We’ve been here before.”

“Before…?” Archer whispered. His headache returned, but not at full force. Suddenly he could see it—the puddles of garbage, the reflection of the moon and lamps in the water. A thousand memories of the same time and place bombarded him before he could stop them.

“I relive this night, every night. The world doesn’t allow me to forget it.” He pressed his lips together and took a deep breath. “Because in the end, you were right,” Young Archer smiled, but there was no joy behind it, “I did end up regretting it. Because I never got to be you.”

Archer could feel his breathing pick up. His hands found his hair, the edges of his ears, his chest, his stomach.

“But seeing me is going to make you not do it, right? Because now you know things are going to get better. So, you’re not gonna do it, then, right? You’re going to save us? Tell me you’re going to save us!”

“I can’t,” he cut him off, “it’s already too late.”

Soon, the heavy breathing did not help him. He couldn’t remember who he was before, but he was sure that that person must have had asthma. The tips of his fingers began to go numb, until the rest of his blood pooled away from his torso and into his legs, sinking him into place. “So, why am I here, then, if I’m not here to talk you out of it?”

Young Archer shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s my subconscious trying to make me feel guilty. Maybe it’s my mother’s voice trying to keep me here. Maybe it’s God. I don’t know.”

Archer felt his legs shake, but he made his way all the way to the edge of the bridge. He could even feel himself climbing over the edge and sitting with himself. He wasn’t sure how, but he could feel that he had never made it this far before.

“If…if there’s nothing I can do, then can I at least have a bite of your muffin?” He motioned to what remained of the clump of cranberries and cake in his younger self’s hands. He had a feeling it wouldn’t taste nearly as good now that it had been sitting for a while, but he thought it might have been worth a try.

Young Archer stared at him. “You never ask me for my muffin.”

“…Am I not supposed to?”

“No, it’s not that, it’s just…every night, I come to the edge of this bridge, and every night you try to stop me. You never ask me for my muffin.”

Archer sighed and kicked his feet over the side of the railing, beating his heels together to allow some dirt to fall into the water. “Is that okay?”

Wordlessly, Young Archer broke what remained into two halves, handing the older version of himself the bigger piece. He deposited it into his hands and took a bite of the smaller piece he had left for himself.

“Thanks,” Archer whispered. He felt his shoulders sag at the sight of it and held the muffin gently like a baby bird. “I just thought I’d try it one more time. I don’t think they have these where we’re going, so I thought, might as well.”

Young Archer looked down at his own piece and popped the final bit of muffin between his lips. He looked down at his hands, now empty, and swallowed.

“Yeah,” he said. “Might as well.”

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About the Contributor
Sawyer Sussner, Contributor
Sawyer Sussner (he/him) is a transmasculine writer and poet from Warren, New Jersey. His experiences through queer acceptance both in the community and in the self are some of the main subjects of his writing, and he hopes that his work makes his queer audience feel a little less alone. His short stories have been featured in Porch Water Press, Ogma Magazine, en*gendered literary magazine, and others. When he isn't scribbling in his journal, he can also be found knitting or reading whichever queer young adult novel is closest. Find him on Twitter @writingbysawyer.

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