Friday, December 21, 2012

Wages of Fear

I have very little unreasonable fear
of most things in life
i do have an unreasoned fear of heights
i am acrophobic

as a male
the idea of being frightened of anything
feels shameful
over the years I have tried to combat this fear
and drive it from my psyche
without success
two early attempts are worth the tale

the first was at the Grand Canyon in Arizona

nearing the rim
during a climb back up the trail from the bottom
i cut off the tourist track
and scrambled a hundred feet or so
up a steep scree of loose rock
which ended in a low vertical wall at the summit

I had misjudged the height of the rock wall
thinking i could just reach up and haul myself up onto the rim
I arrived at the base only to realize it was over-hung
entirely out of my reach and unclimbable
it was only when i turned to go back down
that i realized just how steep the angle of the scree was

It was an almost vertical rocky slant
ending in a sheer drop of several thousand feet
to the canyon floor below
one tiny slip on one loose rock
would propel me in an accelerating skid
right over the edge
in a free fall of almost one mile

i was trapped
unable to go up
and far too scared to climb back down
with freedom just a few feet above my head

I could cry for help
and attract attention from the tourists on the trail below
but felt too ashamed of myself to do that
and have my cowardliness aired to all and sundry

I sat there with my heart in my mouth for a good twenty minutes
before  I  eventually worked up enough courage
to  inch my way back down onto the trail

For the next ten years or so this unreasoned fear of heights
ate away at my male pride

My next attempt into the wages of  personal fear
took place in London
on the flat-topped roof of the Hilton Hotel in Hyde Park

A brick ledge
a foot high
and a foot wide
ran right around the edge of the roof
of the block-sized building
the vertical drop to the pavement was 27 stories

like a man on a tight rope
I walked that ledge twice
one time each on succeeding days
but could not work up the courage
to make a third

which is just as well
in the intensity of my attempts
I had not realized
that if anyone had looked up
and seen a crazy walking the edge
endangering any lives below
let alone my own
i could well have been arrested

I have since discovered
that i have vertigo
due to unbalanced hearing
and therefore my instinctive fear of heights
is not that unreasonable

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