I know I haven’t posted anything since school started. It’s going really well, in case you’re wondering. It’s just hard adjusting to a new schedule. But I’m getting a handle on it now. This is my first assignment for my workshop. It’s eight pages double spaced, so it’s much longer than the posts you were reading the last week before class started. Hopefully it’s good enough for you guys to forgive me. Enjoy.
Standing at the edge of a cliff, a boy considers taking a leap of faith. The cliff hangs over a turquoise blue lake in the mountains where families go in the summer. His family is on the other side of the lake in their cabin, drying off. The sun is setting, filling the sky with red and orange clouds with splashes of purple. The yellow sky is slowly turning to night. After playing all day, everyone has gone back inside to eat dinner with their families. The cabins litter the shore with light like the stars that are already starting to appear. Smoke billows from the fireplaces and the last rays of light turn them gold. It’s a beautiful scene to do it, and no one is around to distract him.
Right from the start he has been bullied. He grew up with an older sister that relentlessly did mean things to him. She pulled his hair, stole his crayons and markers, screamed at him while he was napping, changing the channel in the middle of a show, hiding the controllers to his video games, jumping and hitting and scratching and kicking him when he tried to fight back, ripping his homework apart as soon as he finished, setting his alarm back so he would be late for school, things like that. And at school, it didn’t stop. He was never bright. The teacher always called on him. She knew he didn’t know and wanted to make a point out of him. “This is what happens if you don’t do your homework.” He would tell her he did, but to no use. He never had proof and he understood that. But the other students saw this as an opportunity to pick on him in gym or at recess or whenever there was a substitute. Too tired to defend himself, he let the abuse become a part of who he was. He expected it, and embraced it, hoping they would get tired and accept him and apologize.
But it only got worse. The kids in school all lived in the same neighborhood. He would wake up and deal with his sister. His parents were oblivious to what was really going on. They assumed it was just fun and games, that one day they’ll leave each other alone, the same way it happened with their brothers and sisters who they both love and care about. They were also aware of his troubles in school. They never hit him, but he would be punished for weeks if he failed his tests. And it was always during those weeks where the kids from school seemed nicer, where they wanted him to go out and play sports in the park with them, but he couldn’t because he was punished. The more they asked and the more he said he couldn’t, the more they assumed he didn’t like them, and the abuse in school grew worse. When he got home from school, he was so emotionally drained that he didn’t have much of an appetite.
“You’re not hungry?” his mother would ask.
“No, I’m tired,” the boy would respond.
“Have a little more,” she would say, already putting the food on his plate.
“No, thank you,” he would say back.
“You don’t like my cooking?”
“So eat,” she would insist.
“Don’t you love me?”
“I do,” he’d say, confused.
Then finally bed. But even that wasn’t simple. He needed to stay up to catch his sister. She knew this too, and would purposefully not go in, knowing he knows she might, which was enough torment. Not until two or three in the morning could he go to bed, and wake up at six for school, which was only a couple blocks away, meaning he had to walk alone. No one ever waited for him. He never had anything to say or talk about. He would focus entirely on staying awake, not stumbling into traffic.
The sun keeps sinking slowly down the mountain. The boy’s family calls for him occasionally. Their voices echo off the rocks and slam him hard, pushing him away from the ledge. Some children are already back outside and their voices echo off the rocks as well. It’s warm out and it had rained earlier so all the little gnats and mosquitos and other annoying bugs aren’t around to bother anyone. It’s perfect weather for a night swim, and to catch the last bit of the sunset. After a couple minutes of calling, they disappear. They tried. They’re sure he’s fine. He slowly creeps up to the ledge again, careful not to slip, instinctually looking behind him so no one pushes him unexpectedly. If he can’t do it himself, his sister will surely do it for him, thinking it’s a game. She would want nothing more. The boy has always been the forgotten child. His sister takes up all of his parents’s energy.
Back in the cabin, the boy’s mother is worried, but knows there needs to be something on the table. Tonight is the night where they have their big celebratory dinner together, and everyone helps prep. The mother calls for her child expecting him to walk in within seconds. She calls again and again. The boy’s sister comes in and asks if she can go look for her brother. Her mother says yes, but her father says no.
“Because he could use a break from you,” he responds.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Yeah,” interjects his wife, “what are you saying?”
“I see how she treats him,” he says, not taking his eyes off his daughter.
“They’re just playing.”
“And he’s just tired. Give him a break. He’ll come when he’s hungry.”
His wife is upset but smiles anyways. She calls her daughter over and tells her to chop the garlic. Tonight they’re making a meat sauce. The mother is in charge of the tomatoes and pasta. The father is in charge of the meat: trimming the fat and frying it all. The sister is in charge of stirring, and today, the garlic. The boy up on the cliff is supposed to make the meatballs, the best part. He finally got the hang of it too. Last year, he finally learned to put in enough breadcrumbs, the secret to keeping them moist while they cook for hours in the bubbling sauce, absorbing the flavors of the chicken and lamb and sausage and various cuts of beef.
“The garlic is done. Can I wash my hands by the lake? I hear people playing.”
“No. It’s already seven.”
“And dinner won’t be ready until nine!”
“Can’t you stay here? I need you to stir the sauce.”
“Can’t you or dad do it?”
“If you see your brother, tell him to come in.”
The boy’s sister is genuinely concerned about where her brother is, but she has something else on her mind. Her friends are down by the lake and they stole some beers from their parents. There’s going to be a small fire behind the rocks so their parents can’t see. If they start now, they can have one or two each and still have an hour to calm down before going in for good.
When she gets to the rocks, her friends are already laughing and look to be one or two beers down already.
“Why didn’t you wait?” she asks upset.
“We need to ask you something, and we’re afraid to do it sober.”
“Is your brother home?”
“No, he disappeared. Haven’t seen him all day.”
“My younger sister likes him and wants to meet him. We should find them and make them drink a sip or two and get them to kiss each other.”
“They’re ten years old!”
“So what? We’re fourteen! It’s not that big of a deal.”
“I can’t stand him, no.”
“Can we look for him?”
“No. It’s not happening. I hate him.”
“He’s all my parents care about. They don’t give a shit about me. I’m out here drinking right now and they know that and they let me go anyways, but all that’s on their mind is him. Where is he? What’s he doing? Go find him? I’m on vacation too. Leave me alone.”
The boy at the edge of the cliff can hear a bunch of girls laughing, and can see their fire from his vantage point. He imagines himself there talking to them and having a good time, but they never pay him any attention. He sees himself sitting their quietly not saying a word as they laugh amongst themselves, and probably at him. And his sister would show up and embarrass him, telling them about how he wets the bed at night. She wouldn’t mention the fact that he doesn’t leave the room because he’s afraid of running into her or one of her traps, scaring him and waking the whole house up and running back to the safety of her room, laughing silently behind the door as she hears her parents scream at her brother. He looks down the cliff and smiles. Everyone calls him weak, they think he won’t do it, but he will. He feels it in his bones. He can’t wait to prove them wrong.
“He’ll be here any minute,” says the boy’s father.
“Where is he? And where’s his sister?” asks his wife.
“You don’t know that. How could you know that if you’re here and they’re not.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“It’s dinner. You’re acting like they’ve been lost all day. That we need to call the police. We’re on vacation, and so are they. Let them do their own thing.”
“Go find them now.”
The boy’s father goes out without saying a word. He grabs his phone, aware there isn’t any service, and calls his son anyways.
The boy hears his phone ringing and ignores it.
Through the same mountains that he used to hike when he was younger, the father calls for his son. The trees muffle his calls and the light is just about gone. The sky hasn’t turned fully into night yet. The sun is hiding behind the trees, but its presence is still seen in the dark blue, not yet black, sky. There’s just enough light to see what’s in front of him. The birds are still chirping in the trees, and squirrels rustle the fallen leaves and twigs on the ground looking for last minute snacks before bed. He stumbles over the same roots that have stood the test of time, that tripped him up many years ago, when he was his boy’s age. Everything, he realizes, changes in the dark. What you thought you knew, even though it’s still there, is dependent on the light. We need the light to see the beauty of the roots, not its absence which makes us curse the roots being there. Without the roots, we have no trees. No trees, no life.
The boys sister is still behind the rocks. Judging by the blue of the night sky, they still have twenty minutes or so before they have to go in for the night. They have been laughing all night, talking about boys they’ve seen, who looks the best in their bathing suits, who makes them laugh the hardest, who they would run off into the woods with. They all have different tastes, but they all agreed on one in particular. Long, dirty blonde hair, kind of tall and kind of muscular, mainly because he’s skinny, with blue eyes. He makes all of them laugh all day long, telling jokes, throwing them around in the water, letting them all try to throw him, catching frogs and tiny fish that swim too close. They even love the music he listens to, like A Day to Remember.
The sister, trying to clear her head, lays down on the cold rocks and dips her head in the water. When she gets up, she looks to the cliffs and sees a figure on the edge, standing there ready to jump. She can’t tell who it is and it worries her.
“Someone’s going to jump!” she yells.
“No one ever jumps off those cliffs. They’re too dangerous,” says her friend
“You need the light to see where to jump,” says another.
“Should we do something?”
“Let’s wait,” says the boy’s sister. “He knows what he’s doing.”
He hear them go quiet. They’re not laughing anymore. They must have given up on him too. It’s not surprising. This is the only way to prove to everyone I’m worth being around. He steps closer and feels the ledge on his toes. Tears well up in his eyes. He’s scared, but happy. He can feel the excitement past his bones and in his soul. He’s known his whole life he was capable of doing something like this. It just took getting right to the ledge to realize.
His father slowly approaches the cliffs. He’s given up on yelling. He sees someone at the ledge and instantly recognizes his son. He waits, not wanting to scare him. He can see how close he is to jumping, and sees himself in the same position when he was younger.
Off in the distance, the boy’s father can hear his daughter laughing, yelling “Jump!” over and over. They all think this guy on the cliff is crazy for jumping. Maybe he will do a backflip. No one else would ever consider doing it.
The boy, can hear the voices, but cancels them out. He needs to concentrate.
The boy’s father takes out his phone and starts recording. There’s still a little bit of light in the sky left. His son’s body is like a silhouette against the sky. One day, he’ll want to see for himself how brave he is, how easy it is to jump. He looks back to when he first jumped, and how his father told him to “either shit or get off the pot.” The pressure was immense and took away from the excitement of doing something on his own. He felt he was doing it to please his father rather than himself. The boy has enough confidence issues as it is. He’s been here all day, staring at the water. It took over an hour just to get to the cliff, watching the other boys test their fates and laughing at the bottom. No one ever hurts themselves off these cliffs. It’s all mental. The boy bends down, his father hits record, and the boy finally jumps. There’s the splash, and the laughter. He goes to the edge of the cliff and yells down, startling his son. He congratulates him and shows him the video on the walk home.