Watching “Bart + Mimi” for several years on morning walks, I’ve been waiting to see if their public proclamation of love in Portuguese would multiply as love locks on bridges have around the world.
Multiplication is not desirable. A solitary lock is much more romantic, and cities where historic bridges are targeted struggle to cope with the weight of the demonstrations of love. Padlocked proclamations on such sites as Via dell’ Amore in the Cinque Terre and the narrow 1828 Pont de l’Archevêché in Paris endanger the structures. A few years ago, Parisian officials took action, removing the locks in the middle of the night. The bridge quickly was reconquered by determined lovers.
The narrow pedestrian bridge in the King William Historic District that Bart and Mimi selected to share their beijoes certainly looks the part. Some call the Johnson Street Bridge the O. Henry Bridge. Built in 1983, it replicates an earlier one removed from this spot during inartistic flood-control work completed in the 1960s. The 1880 bridge had been moved to Johnson Street from its original location on Commerce Street, where it served as an inspirational setting for writer Sidney Porter, or O. Henry.
While the moniker O. Henry might sound romantic, his morbid short story of suicidal consumptives set on the former Commerce Street Bridge was not. But Bart and Mimi’s lock has triumphed over the inherited gloom, assuming its role as one of San Antonio’s quills:
“If peculiarities were quills, San Antonio de Bexar would be a rare porcupine. Over all the round of aspects in which a thoughtful mind may view a city, it bristles with striking idiosyncrasies and bizarre contrasts.” (Retrospects and Prospects, William Sydney Porter (O. Henry))
Hopefully, their en amo voce will remain a single quill and not inspire a wave of others to turn the little footbridge into an obese bristling porcupine.
- Gayle Brennan Spencer