Updated: 4 days ago
Published: August 19, 2020
The first 10% of
AFRAID OF HEIGHTS
IT’S FUNNY HOW many people are so trusting. Some walk with their heads down, eyes glued to their cell phones, minds oblivious to the people around them. They have no idea that someone may be watching them. Others have earbuds in their ears, listening to music as they stroll along. They have no idea that someone may be sneaking up behind them. And it is amazing how many people are so naive around heights. They stand on balconies twenty stories up, believing they are safe. They walk along the edges of cliffs, believing that the ground won’t fall out from under them. They climb towers believing that they will get back down safely. They don’t question the motives of the person next to them. It doesn’t enter their minds that their lives could be in that person’s hands.
For instance, take the couple who were leaning on the railing of the deck overlooking a wide valley with a river winding through it. They were discussing whether they wanted to climb the 100-foot high Temagami Fire Tower that stood behind them. The young woman was all eager, but the young man was hesitant. Were they in love? Had they both wanted to come here, or only one of them? What if that one had thoughts about pushing the other off the top of the tower?
I had been on a road trip through Ontario for a week when I saw the road sign advertising the Temagami Fire Tower as a tourist attraction with wonderful views. It was early evening when I pulled into the parking lot. I walked to the tower to see the view from the security of the centre of the deck.
Then, after seeing them, I decided to wait for the young couple to make up their minds about climbing the tower.
I AM AFRAID OF heights. At least I think it is of heights. Maybe it isn’t so much that as it is a fear of falling from that height. Whichever it is, I have had that fear since I was eight-years-old and on a camping trip in the mountains with my family. The first morning, my parents decided that they, my brother Barry, and I should hike up a trail to a picnic area where we could eat lunch and look out over a large valley. We started out with my mother in the lead, and my brother behind her. I was third and my father last. At first, the ground was basically flat, but soon the trail became steep with a drop-off on our right. We were about a half hour into the hike when Barry, who is three years older and a foot taller, started teasing me about how out of shape I was.
“You know you’re slowing down our hike,” he said the third time he and my parents had to stop and wait for me to have a drink of water. “And don’t think you’re fooling anyone by saying you’re thirsty. We all know you’re stopping to catch your breath.”
“Am not,” I protested, trying to control my breathing. I will admit I was a little overweight for my height, and since school had let out for the summer, doing any form of exercise had not been part of my day.
“Are too.” Barry stuck his tongue out at me.
“That’s enough,” my mother said, quietly.
I put the bottle of water into the holder on my day-hiker waist pack and adjusted it on my hips. We continued our trek.
It wasn’t long before Barry pulled out one of his earbuds and looked over his shoulder. “Geez, you’re panting like dog. You’re making so much noise I can’t hear my music.”
By this time, I was getting frustrated and angry. I didn’t know why my parents had thought this hike was a good idea for me. They were active people, bicycling and jogging in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. Barry played hockey in the winter and soccer in the summer. Me, I liked to lay on my bed and read or surf the internet. All seasons.
I reached out and gave Barry a shove to shut him up. He tripped and fell forward.
My father grabbed me from behind and thrust my upper body out over the drop-off. I screamed, my arms flailing at empty air. Stone-cold terror welled up in me.
“Do you see how far down that is?” Dad demanded. I barely heard him over the buzzing in my ears. “That’s how far Barry would have fallen if you had pushed him harder.” The rocks below floated through the haze that partly obscured my eyes.
I heard a far-off yelling. “Steve, stop that! Steve!”
August 19, 2020
Tags: #JoanJedy#AfraidofHeights #JoanDonaldsonYarmey#FreePreview#RCNShorts