Falling Off


Picture used with permission from Savannah Keith. When I’m at the top of the hill, he’s at the very edge of the rocky cliff, staring out to the forest. A creek runs through the middle, and I thought it was beautiful. I admire from afar, keeping my distance. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” I say, smiling.

Ashton Bruce, Staff Writer

In the spring, we took a trip to the mountains, except that it was not so much a trip as it was a complete, tumbling, dangerous fall, and it was not so much the mountains as much as it was a moderately tall hill. We thought it was a good idea because we were high, and that’s explanation enough.

We didn’t bring any supplies. It wasn’t a premeditated activity, and, so, all we brought was a backpack filled with jumbo marshmallows and Nacho Cheese Doritos. He had it slung against his back, carrying the weight of our bad eating habits, and I treaded through the dusty path, breathing heavily, a good five paces behind him.

“How are you doing that?” I asked, my breaths turning into gasps for air.

“Doing what?” I could hear the smugness in his voice, and I could imagine the smirk on his face that I just wanted to smack off. But then the smirk in his voice disappeared. “I’m healthier,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Bull,” I snapped, crumbling to the ground, collapsing on the side of the trail beside a fallen tree. “I watched you eat two burritos and half of a package of Mini-Snickers before we came here.”

He chuckled, glancing back at me. He stopped, turned, and stood with his head cocked to the side and his nose wrinkled. “Are you seriously just going to lie on the ground?”

My eyes opened, and I grunted, pulling myself up onto the log that lay beside me. I balanced my body against the rough bark that scratched at my lower back, and I picked up my hips and adjusted my shirt down. “No. I’m going to lie on this log.” I patted the side of the aforementioned log before slinging a sweaty arm over my eyes, grinning.

He groaned. “I’m not tired. And I want to get to the top.” When there was no reply, he continued. “We’re already three thirds there.” When there was yet again no reply, I opened my eyes and watched him walk, deviating from the dusty trail.

“Where are you going?” I called.

“Taking a short cut,” he answered.

That was good enough for me. I started to laugh, watching him dive and meander through the forest. I could still hear his footsteps thumping against the ground when he disappeared from my line of vision. Part of me wished to follow him, and the other part said, “You’re terrified of heights.”

“What’s it look like up there?” I shouted up to him. I always wanted to know, because it was supposed to be so beautiful. But I was partially scared he would pretend to push me off and I would not-pretend to believe him.

“It’s worth the hike!” he hollered down to me, and I smiled to myself, moving my arm off my eyes so that it lay over my stomach. I stared up at the sky, which seemed endless and spectacular. He was always so interested in what was beyond the sky. I remember, now, when he told me a story about what the discovery of water on Mars could mean. He also told me how ironic he thought it was that Pluto was named after the god who got kicked out of Olympus. And he told me about the stars, constantly reading horoscopes even though he thought it was complete and utter bull. He found fascination in what was beyond the sky, but I was far more interested in what was underneath it. Like the taste of flavorful Doritos, and the tasteful debate between Cool Ranch and Nacho Cheese flavors, and the way I could learn about things on the opposite side of the world with a few taps of my phone, and him.

“Are you going to come down soon?” I shouted to him.

“In a minute,” he called back.

“So which is more interesting then?” I asked, my voice yelling up at him, fighting its way through the trees.


“Space or here? Space or earth?”

He didn’t reply, and I smirked to myself because I know what that means. And even though I was scared of heights, my love of saying ‘I told you so’ and seeing beautiful things and people outweighed the fear. I go to him and grin.

When I was at the top of the hill, he was at the very edge of the rocky cliff, staring out to the forest. A creek ran through the middle, and I thought it was beautiful. I admired from afar, keeping my distance. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” I said, smiling.

He turned back towards me, his eyes crinkling. “You came.”

I nodded, pursing my lips, paranoid and scared.

He raised his brow, and he chuckled, walking to me. His hand gripped mine as he tugged me forward. “Come on then,” he ordered, and I stomped my heels into the ground, grumbling irritably about how I didn’t want to.

“Shut up,” he teased, and I did.

We stood against the rock, my toes peeking out in my sandals. There was no rock underneath it, and his arm wrapped around my shoulder as he leaned forward, peering down against the side of the cliff. “Are you afraid?”

“Should I be?”

He laughed. “No.”

And so, even though I was paranoid, I wasn’t scared, because my love for him outweighed the fear.