Cliff Diving By Kate Tooley

June 20, 2016 Comments Off on Cliff Diving By Kate Tooley

Beneath the thin dead layer and the one that bleeds — beneath the insulation and the muscle — my bones that should be hard are throbbing. What is solid threatens suddenly to break, or bend, or blow holes in my skin, all because I am afraid to jump. Under my feet, a hundred textures shift: rough bits of granite, a gauzy layer of dirt-colored dirt worn fine by the wind that has been blowing since we came, half-digested pieces of pine straw and leaf. I can feel all of it through thick calluses.

Because I am terrified.

I am a great reader of statistics and trivia. I know about surface tension and the fact that most people who jump from the golden gate bridge have all their organs ripped loose; acquire their own open circulatory system. Except it doesn’t work as well in people as in grasshoppers, but that’s not really what I’m thinking right now; it’s an afterthought: what I think I should be thinking. What I think, is that the world is so beautiful from up here, so foreign. How the snarled pine trees looking like angels; how very clean the air is at this height; and how pale the sun looks; how it seems to have been smudged a little, from the center out. Not like the sun underwater. Water shatters, pulls the blaze to pieces. The light becomes absorbed and part of something else – part of us, one of us, born in water and slowed by it.

Down in the water I will be diffused and absorbed — myself again – but now my skin is burning. I can see that glaze of red across my arms already, and I am drying out. My mouth hurts, and all the things I want to say, sing, laugh out of myself are pressed down. They seem unimportant when stacked against the pain of shaping my lips or moving my tongue now swollen with this heat.

You are behind me. You have, it seems, found shade up here, and can still speak. You, I cannot look at, cannot touch. If I did, my insides would tear away long before I hit the water. You, whose loss will wound me irreparably; you, the reason I haven’t pulled my feet off of this granite ledge. You, like the wind and the clearness of the sun, were born, like me, out of the water, and like me have become terrestrial, lost your gills — sacrificing one thing for another, like some medieval drudge bargaining at market. “I give you this good watch dog for two bolts of cloth.” Do you think sometimes at night she misses that old dog at her feet? Or does a new shawl cancel out the loss? I think her shoulders are warm but her feet cold.

The wind has dropped. I cannot breathe at all in this dry heat. At the very edge, the brink, the foothold is simpler. The jump seems shorter viewed through grainy rock.

© 2016 Kate Tooley

Kate Tooley is a writer, director, and actor living in Brooklyn, New York. She loves good scotch and long walks on the beach, but can afford neither, generally substituting cheap beer and a good long wander down Eastern Parkway. She has lived up and down the east coast, and acquired a degree in Drama and a taste for literary debate from the University of Virginia. She has been writing compulsively since she was seven; however, most of her early work has been lost due to appalling penmanship. She occasionally dabbles in scarf juggling.

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