Spending some time beneath a waterfall today. You know the story – mountain trail, California flora, intermittent screech of a hunting hawk – the dusty trek to an open ravine that’s purportedly hidden but heavily littered by a callous citizenry. Six feet separates the cliff from the falls, and I wedge myself in amidst the spray as a vertical sun blinks miniature flames upon the pool below. It is one of those profound philosophical moments when one starts to ponder life’s significance, the universe, blah blah blah.
I am reminded of Simon, William Golding’s character from Lord of the Flies, an island-bound introverted misfit who hides himself behind a wall of vines in a futile search for solitude. Gravity pulls the water into a foaming fizz.
A face appears, jack-o-lantern teeth, Leperish flesh rabidly scraped, hair like a rustled birds nest. Around a too-large tongue, it emits a grunt. Fight or flight kicks in, the adrenalized blood racing from heart to limb, accompanied by panic – fear nthed. I pause to consider, the whole book by its cover issue now becoming an actual book with a cover. As pages turn, strange questions arise. Why do I feel threatened? Is this how aging, frail ladies feel around tattooed teenagers? Am I experiencing the terror a black child of the early sixties felt when the po-po’s passed by? Does this moment reek of something Islamophobic?
The answer still eludes me. Am I forming an opinion based on past experience? Or is this my built-in defense mechanism – the moat of my survival – my limbic response to danger? Am I really so mentally inadequate that I am succumbing to evolved monkey–thoughts?
It seems strange to think like this under water, as though I am being taken back to the roots of humanity in a way that suggests I am being offered a second chance. I extend my hand. He extends a knife. On the plus side, I know exactly where I lost my wallet.