Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GET COLD FEET (10/12/17)
- TITLE: 'Nuff Said
By Virgil Youngblood
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The art is therapy. The remedy for acrophobia is exposure in small measures to situations that debilitate; turning knees to jelly, uncontrollable shaking, wheezy queasies, wetting of pants, the list goes on. I’m reminded every time I look at the cat and the bird that they are higher in a tree than I’ve ever been.
Someday, God willing, I’ll climb the burr oak in the back yard and peek on the neighbors, though nothing is going on there – my kids would have told me. They know everything.
I was ten years old when my family took a day trip to Austin. We climbed the stairs in the state capitol and I moseyed ahead to the rotunda railing. Looking over the barrier at the magnificent state seal on the ground floor, my knees liquefied; my stomach somersaulting. Slipping from mother’s grasp, I scurried to safety like a frightened blue crab marking a wet trail on the cold terrazzo tile for the family to follow.
Ever since, heights have a petrifying hold on me. It is seared in my cerebellum that a magnetic force was pulling me down. Except for mother’s quick response I would have slipped over the railing, plunging like a waterfall onto the state seal.
My phobia has worsened. Mama said, “Deal with it.” Family and close friends understand, or say they do; it doesn’t matter. I’ll drive, take the train, or see you when you get back.
But, I want to get better – to overcome this stupid, irrational choker of normal life. My therapist says I can. Flying the friendly skies can be in my future, she says. So I’m trying; exposure in small doses, looking the enemy in the eye, telling myself I can overcome. And I believe it doesn’t hurt to pray. I believe that. I really do. I just don’t know if this phobia is my thorn-in-the-brain to bear or to defeat.
Last week, after a year of small steps, small victories, I made a momentous decision to go all in. I am at a water park today, psyched up to conquer the water slide. The tower is ten stories tall with a near vertical drop of fifty feet. It will be fun. The literature says so.
At the bottom of the chute my best friend, my accountability partner, will be waiting to celebrate with me.
The sliders shoot down noisily like human roman candles into a pool; their joyous squeals and showers of chlorine perfumed spray energizing me. A teenage black boy, perhaps unable to swim and fearful of splashing into the waist-deep water, or the speed, came hurtling down, his knees spread wide against the railing. Stopping short he rolled over the side moaning, clutching his bleeding, friction-sanded knees, quickly clearing the path for the next slider.
“Ouch!” Did he have any hide left?
But, I’m resolute. I’m going to do it. I think I can, I think I can, I know ….
The tower pokes into a cloudless blue sky. My knees are strong, free of adrenalin; nature’s fight-or-flight response to panic. I’m in control.
The wide green carpeted ramp winds upward. I merge into the stream of mostly kids, confident my money has not been paid to my therapist in vain. Staying in the middle, those jogging past do not rock my boat in the least. I don’t look over the railings.
I’m in control, trudging upward, eyeing the bouncing buttock of a skinny nine-year-old in a miniscule yellow bikini, wondering if the monarch butterfly tattoo peeking out is a sticker? Surely, it is.
As I neared the top a young boy with a blond crew-cut came trotting down, wailing as he rounded a corner, blue eyes sparkling. “I forgot,” he yelled. “I forgot I’m afraid of heights! Ooooh, Ooooh, Ooooh,” he chanted, each step thrumming a song on the metal ramp as he moved past me.
“Wait!” I yelled. “I’ll go with you.”
I’m not a bobcat. I’m not a bird. I’ve got to be me. I’m replacing that painting next week. I didn’t get this old accidently.
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