I wanted to be a stunt double. Everyone I knew was so afraid of danger, but danger was everywhere. I reasoned that it didn’t make sense to be afraid. The only way ‘round was through.
At recess we’d take turns climbing the highest jungle gym, then jump off. We’d only have a few minutes before the teachers would swarm, so we’d negotiate at lunch and then execute our plan upon arrival.
It was Michael’s turn today, and we couldn’t wait! He was a clumsy kid, but fearless. He’d accept any dare without hesitation or debate. You couldn’t win if you didn’t stick the landing, but he was free-falling. We watched him tumble clumsily over the rail, and then, a faint crack like the sound of dishes clanging.
In aftercare I’d spend my time rocking back and forth in my favorite oblong chair. I’d let it fall forward long and fast enough to almost send me crashing forward, head first into the table. Right before I could fall, I would slip my hands out from underneath and catch myself. It was a game I could always win.
My change was gradual, but Mike’s fall was the trigger. The second came a few months later when I finally lost my game. The chair rocked back and forth in a rhythm that was too fast, too strange. I crashed teeth first into the table, loosening my two front teeth and falling dramatically on the tile floor. The pain was surreal, and the blood was devastating. It was a fall I’d remember for a lifetime.
When my mother picked me up she was furious (Being a stunt double is expensive). There would be more hospital bills, dentist bills; more monthly payments. It was all completely unnecessary.
I’d never thought much about falling. It was something you could always avoid if you paid enough attention. Weeks passed, and I found myself venturing to other ends of the playground. The jungle gym had lost its grip over me. Much to my surprise, I’d developed an overwhelming fear of heights– one that stays with me still.
It came upon me slowly, like the faint whisper of a secret. But it was pronounced and clear: consequences. If there was never a day before then that I learned, I understood now.
Consequences. Everything we do has a consequence: if not now, then later. If not for us, then for those we love.