Learning to Fall
I was sitting under the magnolia tree with the sun dripping
its light down behind the hills, its florescence burning into the greenness. I
ran my fingers through my fur and gazed absently through the abyss.
I tapped my pen on my notepad, which was nearly
full not with words but with scribbles - scribbled out ideas and pictures and
some words that weren't fully conjoined by thought. I smiled though, because
it was a product of my own work - a product of what I loved to do.
I saw my twin sister, Riih, galloping over,
sun streaked over her red-furred body, making her look like she was adorned
with red stripes. I sighed and wondered if I could pretend to be sleeping to
avoid her frequent and sometimes tedious questioning.
"Rit," she smiled, her teeth perfectly white.
"How're you?" She plopped down next to me, invading my personal space. I scooted
over a little; I needed breathing room. She lassoed me with a chain of flowers.
"I made this for you. Fresh picked. I can show you how, if you want." She started
yanking the flowers off of the magnolia tree to demonstrate.
I slapped her paw. "Don't do that!" I frowned.
Riih sighed, discarding the flowers.
"What's with you? Is the tree your new best
friend or something?"
"Then what is it?"
"It's my - my -" I considered whether or not
to confide my reasoning to her. "My…thinking place." I confessed.
"Thinking place?" Riih asked, her face screwed
up in her own quirky, odd grin. She laughed a little. "Rit, you can be so weird
sometimes." She got up so quickly I felt my head spin. "C'mon, I'm meeting some
of the girls at the bottom of the hill - we can go see them together!"
"Nah, no thanks." I said.
Riih groaned and stamped her paw in the freshly
dug up dirt. Eri had been planting flowers outside and only halfway completed
the job before she headed inside for a shower. "Rit, you're so antisocial!"
she screeched. Her words reverberated through the muggy air. We were quiet for
a moment. Suddenly, she realized her error. "Rit," she whispered, sinking down
to my eye level again, "I'm so, so sorry…I didn't mean to -"
"Whatever." I whispered, clutching my notepad
hard, glaring at the scribbled out words, vowing not to cry. I didn't want to
let my tears of frustration fall. "Just go, okay?"
Riih silently got up, crossed the yard, and
started down the hill. I knew that she was trying her hardest to make me the
social butterfly that she was, to include me in her friends, her fun. But I
just didn't work that way. I was quiet, withdraw, a blatant introvert. I could
sit by myself under the magnolia tree for hours, just thinking. In my thoughts
and dreams, I can run wild and free and let my imagination escape into an unknown
world, or place. In my thoughts, the words come out like water from a spigot
- fresh, clear, crisp. In real life, when I talk, I'm slow, like thick maple
syrup pouring onto a pancake.
Riih is almost the exact opposite of everything
I am and everything that I stand for. I don't believe that she thinks in her
head - it's almost as if she knows so much that her thoughts can't fit in her
brain, and they spill out all over the place in her words. But her thoughts
are always clear and crisp, even if they are outside her head. She's an extrovert,
and if you lined up all of the people she'd ever charmed in her life, they could
stretch on for miles. She can't sit still for one minute, and sometimes at night
I'll hear her roll out of her bottom bunk, quietly slip out the door, and go
running. Her energy is boundless.
When I can't sleep at night, I climb out the
window and look at the stars and dream about them. I think of how they got there
and where they might have been before they became stars. I think about how they
came to be, and how their sparkle is so glorious.
Ever since Riih and I had our first big argument,
she's been keen on getting me to know her friends, taking me to her "fun parties."
But whenever I go with her, I always can feel her friends' stares; see their
scrutinizing eyes taking me in. I'm not beautiful like Riih. Riih is shorter
than me by several inches, and much lighter than me in weight. Her body, with
its beautiful athletic build, incorporates and hides any extra weight laying
I'm tall, gawky, extra weight showing itself
blatantly on my body, not bothering to try and conceal itself. It shouts to
the world that I'm clearly chunkier than Riih, and not perfect. I feel awkward
going places with her. All eyes follow her, and when they land on me they tend
to look away.
"Hey," I heard someone say. I snapped back into
reality. It was Ana, my older sister. She was a beauty too, and it almost felt
disrespectful to call her skunk-colored, because "skunk" is so undignified to
describe what Ana really was - gorgeous.
"What're you doing out here?" I said, tapping
my pen to my chin again.
"I was trying to do homework, but it's
not easy when all I can hear is you and Riih squabbling."
"We weren't squabbling." I muttered.
"Then what do you call all of that ruckus that
was coming from down here?" she said.
I didn't answer - just stared down at my notepad.
Ana opened her mouth to say something, but I snapped, "It's over, okay?
Let it rest."
Ana sighed, and opened and closed her mouth
a few times, as if she really wanted to say something but couldn't. She closed
her eye and breathed in the soft smell of the evening air. I looked down at
my notepad and pretended to be jotting something down, just so Ana would leave.
It worked - she went back into the house.
I didn't let my tears fall until the door closed
and I heard Ana's heavy footsteps tread upstairs. Then I silently let my tears
trickle down my face. Why was I so different from my extraordinary sisters?
Why was I the weirdo, the one who couldn't connect with any others? I sighed,
and started at my notepad. Almost without thinking, I wrote:
Wishing for a friend,
Compassionate and caring.
Always by my side.
It was a haiku, a terrible one at that. Yet
it was my most productive moment of the day. I smiled to myself for a moment,
and could almost appreciate everything that was happening.
Suddenly, a little noise came from the top of
the tree - a soft "woo." The noise floated down to me like a falling leaf -
unassuming, humble, inconspicuous. It didn't cry out for attention or sympathy,
though you could tell it was almost like crying. Again - "woo."
I tried to peer through the thick leaves on
the magnolia branches, but I couldn't see what was making the noise. "Maybe,"
I though, "it was just the wind. Either that or I'm really starting to go loco."
I laughed out loud to myself, and then realized how odd that would seem to any
passers-by. Suddenly, the "woo" returned - as if it was laughing with me.
Determined, I grabbed around the tough bark
of the tree, and tried to pull myself up. My back paws slipped on the trunk
as I attempted to scrabble up, and I felt a few splinters lodge their way between
my toes. Not concentrating on the pain and just staring upward, I grasped a
branch, about eight feet from the ground. It was small and thin, and surely
couldn't hold me for more than a few moments. I tried to get my back paw on
a knot in the old bark to balance myself for a moment, but ended up slipping.
My back feet flew to where they were just hanging in air, and all that supported
me was that very thin branch. I hung on with my front paws, looking downward
- afraid to let go. "If Riih was in situation," I thought, "she'd let go, because
Riih isn't afraid to fall. I'm always afraid of falling." I confessed to myself.
"That's what's wrong with me. I can't reach any new heights because I'm too
afraid that I might fall."
"I guess we're all afraid to fall sometimes,
right?" I said, surprised to hear my voice reverberating through the quiet air.
I wasn't quite sure who I was talking to - perhaps whatever had emitted the
"woo" noise. I continued to talk, and I was surprised how easy it was for me
to let my words flow. "I guess it's because sometimes we think that when we
fall, we won't be able to get back up; we won't be able to reach those heights
that we desire. But if we never fall," I continued, staring down at the far-away
ground, "we'll never learn how to let back up. So some day when we crash into
the dirt, we'll never be able to get up, because we've never practiced getting
back up." I closed my eyes and hung for a moment, trying to collect more words.
"It's like anything - it takes practice, right? So what's a free fall every
once in a while?"
The branch let out a loud crack! It flew
through the air, whisking at high speeds. I was still hanging. I took a deep
breath for a moment, and I wasn't scared. Closing my eyes, I let go of the branch.
I cut through the air without a sound, as you
imagine the first snowflake falls in the winter sky. It was so peaceful for
that moment, because I barely had a sense of being. Then - slap! My back
came in contact with the ground first, and then the rest of me. A small thud
echoed through the land. I opened my eyes, and let out a little gasp to see
something small and white flying towards me. It plunked onto my chest, and for
a moment my reflexes seemed to falter. I craned my neck to see what was atop
me - astonished, I saw a white Weewoo. She was tiny for a Weewoo, and I'd seen
many of them flying amidst the trees out here. But never had I had one so close
to me. I stroked her downy feathers, loving her. She stared at me, her brown
eyes warm. We sat for a moment, and I felt a connection in her that I'd never
felt in anything else before.
"Hi." I said, and realized how ironic it was
that I couldn't speak to many pets, but speaking to a small little bird was
nothing for me. "You were up there in that tree, weren't you?"
I knew she couldn't possibly understand me,
but she let out a small, undemanding "woo." I scratched her head. "You need
a name." I continued, "You have a name?"
She stared at me blankly, and blinked her eyes.
I started to straighten up, wanting to stand.
My back ached as I sat up, and I rubbed it. The Weewoo hopped off my stomach
and onto the ground, and stared at me expectantly as I stood up. I offered her
my arm, and she happily climbed up and settled herself there. I walked with
"Rae's a nice name." I said. "Rae's really pretty.
Rae and Rit - well, Karritma really, but no one ever calls me Karritma - it's
a real mouthful."
As we passed the magnolia tree, she outstretched
her wings and flapped them vigorously. She wanted to fly, but couldn't. "You
want to get to the top, don't you?" I said. She blinked at me, as if perhaps
she was comprehending my words.
I'd learned how to fall today - I'd learned
that it didn't hurt as much as you thought. Maybe…maybe now I could get to the
top. I could reach that new height.
I moved Rae to my shoulder and used a lower
branch to help myself climb - I pulled myself atop of it and stood up, balancing
carefully. I pulled myself to another branch…and another…and another. It seemed
effortless as I reached toward the sky.
I made it finally - to the top of the magnolia.
I perched myself on a forced branch and peered just over the leaves, where I
could see the big hill. Riih and her friends were there, laughing and talking
loudly about something exasperatingly hilarious. I glanced over at Rae. "I always
thought that friends had to be special people," I said to her, "but I was amazingly
wrong. Friends don't have to be popular and amazing. Friends can be soft, quiet,
and…unexpected." I said, playfully brushed her feathers.
Author's Note: This story is dedicated to larenbeka, for she is my Rae and
is often the only one who takes the time to listen.