learning to fall

K nudged me after our second coworker received his service award.

"Are you leaving soon?" he whispered.

"Yeah," I replied, checking my watch. "I have to catch the last ferry."

"I'll sneak out with you."

"'Kay. After the next introduction, during the applause."

We waited, then discreetly made our exit, slipping behind the tall grey screen that separated the cavernous dining hall 70/30 so that students could finish their meals while our dinner was just getting started. The back door was open. A few members of the catering staff sat at an empty table. One flashed us a peace sign.

As we ducked out the back door and into the quiet night, I realized that the stone patio, dotted with wooden picnic tables, was surrounded by an eight-foot ivy-covered wall. I hadn't ever noticed this, even after four years of eating at the dining hall, even after many celebratory barbecues on this very patio.

K put words to what I was thinking. He whispered, "We're going to have to climb the wall."

"There's got to be another way out!" I hissed, looking around frantically. I am not a climber of walls; it's a wonder I'm coordinated enough to go to the gym without maiming myself or others.

"There's no other way out!" K started laughing. We were both laughing. I kept laughing even as I watched him leap gracefully onto a picnic table, hoist himself onto the wall, and disappear over the other side.

At this point, I was laughing so hard I thought I might vomit. Two glasses of red wine, a wilted salad, overcooked chicken, chocolate torte and a cup of coffee were jiggling around inside me uncomfortably. "Find me another way out!"

"This is it! You have to climb the wall! C'mon, you can do it!"

I got onto the picnic table, placing my hands on the top of the wall. The ivy prickled my fingers a little bit, and I worried about the band-aid on my knuckle, hoping it would withstand this adventure because of my paranoia about the wound underneath becoming infected, spiraling me into another massive staph infection like last fall.

"I don't think I can do this ..."

"Yes, you can! Just lift yourself up onto the wall and I'll help you down on this side!"

I pulled a little. No, no leverage. I could not stop laughing.

"Move the table closer!" K coached, still laughing too. "C'mon, what are you going to do, walk back in there and past all those people? You're going to miss your ferry!"

I jumped down, yanked the picnic table a few inches closer, and got up again. "I don't think I can do this!" I repeated, peeking over the wall at him. A few students trudging past barely glanced our way.

"Just get up on the wall!"

And so I kicked my leg up and heaved myself most dramatically onto the wall, clutching it for dear life as I paused, on my stomach, balanced completely parallel on the top.

Okay, what now? I could hear K snickering almost silently. What now?

There was nothing to do but let go and fall.

And fall I did, spectacularly, although I somehow managed to land on my feet. We assessed the damage as we hurried away across campus: no major scrapes or cuts, band-aid intact, clothes pretty well messed up ...

"... but god, it was worth it for this memory," he grinned.

Yes. Yes, it was.

And now I know how to fall.

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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.