I’ve always loved the mountains

on

Even today, as I sit by the phone, my eyes are drawn to the mountain
behind my house. Each day my eyes move a little closer to the mountains, and a
little closer to their black, jagged summits.

On a warm spring day, I saw a group of hikers ascending a long, gentle
crested steeple of snow in the San Juans. It was a beautiful, open view, and
for a moment, I was overcome by a sense of wonder. Then I glanced down and was
overcome by fear. I couldn’t be certain, but I think the hikers were trying to
build a snow fort.

Tony is one of them. He says he has a fear of heights. I think he does
because it took him so long to build a fort. He didn’t have to build a
fortress, he just had to build a wall of snow. I don’t know if he’s even
thinking about a fortress, but it might be that he needs a fortress because
he’s thinking about his fort.

He doesn’t say he has a fear of falling off cliffs. He says he has a fear
of falling off cliffs and hitting other people who fall off cliffs and hit other
people.

I was talking to my friend Sherry last week. She laughed and said, “It’s
not funny, you being afraid of heights, it’s not funny.” But I don’t know what
a funny fear of heights is. I don’t know what any of us are fearful of. I
don’t know what any of us mean by fear. I’m always afraid of failure. I was
afraid of failing my last test. I was afraid I was going to fail me. I
wasn’t.

And that’s what Tony’s fear of falling is about. Falling.

I have my moments of doubt, too. Like when Sherry says, “I would love to have
some of this fear that you’re talking about.” I’m not sure how you’d call what
I have “fear.” Not sure what it is, even. I don’t know what it means to
be “afraid of heights.” I’m not sure if Tony’s fear is the same. Or if
Tony’s fear is different from mine.

I’m not sure what the fear of something means. I’m not sure if Tony’s fear
of falling off the cliff is the same as my fear of falling off the cliff.

I think Tony is afraid of the fear of falling off the cliff.

Sometimes, the fear of something isn’t so big. Like Tony’s fear of falling
off the cliff. When I look at him climbing over the side of the cliffs, I
see the fear of falling. I see the fear of failure. I see the fear of falling
off the cliff.

It’s the same thing on the mountain. I can see the fear of falling. I’m not
sure it’s a fear or a worry or a fear of something. I’m not sure what it is.
I’m not even sure I know what it is.

When Sherry says she’d love to have some of Tony’s “fear,” she really is
wanting to know what it is. How do you say or mean what you really mean? How
do you describe your fear of falling off the cliff? How do you describe
your fear of falling off the cliff?

Tony has his fear of falling off the cliff.

Tony has his fear of falling off the cliff.

It’s the same thing.

Sometimes, the fear of something isn’t so big.

I’ve been talking to a young girl at work. Her name is Sarah. She’s only a
little older than I am. Last year, they took Sarah to visit the site of an
explosion. There was a lot of damage to the ground and buildings. There were
many people who were hurt. I think Sarah wanted to meet me. I was standing
amongst the debris, and I wasn’t going to show her the debris. I wasn’t going
to show her the dust that was still falling around me. I wasn’t going to show
her the debris because, when I was a kid, I saw my mother and father fall from
the bridge. They fell down the steeple of the church, and we didn’t know what
took them so long. I hadn’t seen my mother fall. I didn’t know what it
was. I didn’t want to know what it was. I wasn’t going to tell Sarah that.
She’s a good kid, isn’t she? She’s a nice girl. I’m happy I have girls
working for me. I don’t know why girls are so much easier to talk to than boys
are. They tell you exactly what they’re thinking. They’re so candid. Some
girls are so honest. They always know if something isn’t right. I like that
about them.

Last year, Sarah had a birthday. She turned nineteen. I sat with her by
the window. She watched the clouds and the sun. I watched a pair of hawks
flutter by one morning. They were beautiful. We talked about the hawks. The
wind blew through the clouds and the hawks.

Sarah had asked me if I’d show her the place where Tony’s death had taken
place. She was going to come to San Juan. She wanted to see the site where
Tony had fallen from the cliffs. She would be on a plane and fly over the
site.

I didn’t want Sarah to know the truth. I didn’t want to tell her the truth,
either. Neither did Tony.

The truth about what happened that night was like this: Tony was tired. He
was going to sleep at the home of Sherry’s sister, Rachel, in New Mexico.
Rachel’s twin brother, Michael, was going to come to San Juan to help with
Tony’s funeral. He was the only one who would be there the night of the
accident.

The morning of Tony’s accident, Sherry got in early. She had slept on a
little cot by Tony’s bed. She was going to the funeral and to the wedding of
her sister. They were going to leave that afternoon. She was excited. They
were going to be celebrating. The only problem was that Tony had been in bed
for a long time when he fell. Tony fell from the bridge. He went over the
cliff. He hit the rocks.

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