I can almost pinpoint the second I lost you. You were afraid of heights, but I convinced you to sit on the ledge with me. “Just for a minute,” I remember lying, hoping that I could coax you to the edge and then make you forget where you were. You sat down next to me, tense, and waited with bated breath for the minute to pass. I grabbed your hand and rubbed circles into your palm, hoping to distract you. “Focus on this,” I urged and you almost relaxed.
Through your hands, I could feel you warring within, arguing with yourself as to what you should listen to, your brain or your hand, brain or hand. You sighed and finally relented, commenting on the view and the rocks and the islands littering the distant coastline.
And I thought I had you, I really did, and I was so at peace with the moment that I forgot to keep tricking you. I lost my anxiety in the water below, forgot that I too was afraid of the steep drop. But then something hard crossed your face and I could tell that you didn’t forget your fears, that you weren’t going to let yourself. “We should be going anyway; it’s going to storm,” you said, taking your hand away, breaking contact.
I remember how you crawled away from the edge, inch by inch, not even daring to stand until you were meters away. It would have been sweet if it hadn’t nearly broken my heart; if you hadn’t been so calculated, I would have called you vulnerable.
I could have protested, I could have tried to make you stay, but I think I knew by then that it was a lost cause. I almost asked you to leave right then, to leave me be to enjoy the dangerous combination of lightning and water. I almost ached for the thunder to drown out my thoughts, to shatter the heavy silence that you had crafted between us. I stared at the jagged rocks and the murky foam beneath, willing them to give me the right words to say or at least the power to say anything. But they were closed and unfriendly, impatient for me to get going. So I stood up and pretended that I was finished contemplating the vastness of the sea, pretended that I was ready and eager to return to safer plains.
I got you drunk in the airport, one last attempt at convincing you back out onto the edge. “We could go to Cornwall, spend a week on the coast,” I proposed, hoping that the promise of rolling hills and another sea would be tempting to you. “Someone fell and drowned last week, did you not see the story?” you countered, and I knew then that you were gone. “Not that I fear death,” you continued, eager to dismiss me, “but the ‘just before.’ The seconds before impact, having to deal with all of my final thoughts. An understanding of the complete irrevocability of certain actions.”
If you were anyone else, I would have teased you about sounding contrived, or at the very least, I would have commented on the pretension of such a conversation.
“Dying is fine,” you said with a certain finality, your last words on the subject (and some of your last to me), “but as you can see, I can’t handle the fall.”