Qualified Entry: Fiction Category
By: Lisa Tsen
I wandered off as I usually did when exploring a new city in another country. Köln is a beautiful place situated in the west of Germany graced by a gothic cathedral that dwarfs the rest of the city. As I stood there admiring the grand cathedral before me, I overheard a conversation between a couple just behind me.
“We should check out the love locks, babe. It would be so romantic,” she swooned. I could picture her holding her hands and looking up towards the sky as she said this.
“What are love locks? Is this a girl thing? And where is it? Is this a museum?” he sighed. I could picture him in defeat knowing it was one of those things he had to give in to do to make his woman happy.
“They’re at that bridge just over there where the trains run. People buy the padlocks and lock them on the bridge and then throw away the keys into the river below to show their undying love for each other. Maybe we can do that? I wonder if there’s a place we can a lock? Oh! We can have our names engraved too! …” I tuned her out as she continued in excitement. She gave me enough information to peek my curiosity. Why not check out these love locks she was talking about. And so off I went heading towards the Hohenzollern Bridge.
I had crossed this bridge when I first arrived here on the train yesterday. But here I was, crossing the same bridge as a pedestrian. Even from 100 meters away, I could see the hundreds upon hundreds of padlocks locked to the fence between the walk way and the train tracks. It seemed to go on from one end to the other.
I slowly walked admiring the locks. There was Steffi and Mark 2008, Helen and Cédric 2006 …. Most of the locks had the names of the two people who loved each other and the date they were either married or when they were here to place these locks. As I kept walking, the locks started to blur as there were so many. My eyes started to pick out the unique ones from bike chain locks to old antique ones from years past. Whatever they were, they symbolized their love for one another.
I stopped halfway at the bridge looking at all the locks I have passed by and those that still stood before me. I looked out to the Rhine River that flowed beneath my feet and focused on a random lock in front of me. A million questions popped into my mind.
Who thought of this? Was it worth it to continue the tradition? …
What other cities have these locks? Do people think they are an eye sore? …
What if the couple were now divorced? Would someone go out in to the river and retrieve the key to unlock the lock? Would they use a blowtorch to open and detach the lock? Would they do this again if they found another love?
My hand reached out to grab the lock in front of me. I ran my fingers slowly across the engraved names. It had my name with my husband’s name on it. What if …