21 October 2015
Life on the Edge
I actually hate almonds. It isn’t even the taste that bothers me. It’s the bland normalness that pulls on my nerves. Every nut tastes the same, smells the same, and looks the same. However that’s how most ordinary foods are, so who am I to judge. I’m just eating them because that’s what Rae decided to snack on.
We’re sitting at her kitchen table. Or rather, she’s sitting and I’m leaning on the counter across from her. I’ve always liked Rae’s house. It was… cozy. The kitchen was small with windows that featured a well developed backyard. Her mom is a landscape designer, so it’s only customary that her lawn be a city home to abundant summer fruits and various flowers.
Rae’s family loves traveling with a unique passion. Her house is jam packed with exotic decorations they acquired during their adventures. I’ve been to her house about a million times, yet whenever I visit I still manage to notice a new adornment. This time it’s the ostrich eggs in an African-looking bowl.
“So,” Rae says, breaking the silence. “What do you want to do?”
I pop another almond into my mouth and sit quietly for a few moments.
“Let’s climb the tower!” I blurt out suddenly.
“Yeah! I heard there was this really cool stellite tower on the navy base.”
“Dude I’d be down! Do you know where it is?” Rae asks.
“Nope. But we can look up the Navy base on google Earth and try to find it.”
Rae hops off her stool and heads towards the desktop computer next to the living room. A few minutes later she has an overview of the base pulled up on google maps.
“Perfect.” I say. “See if you can zoom in on the woods around the base. I think you have to hike to it.”
Rae begins to zoom in and proceeds to scan the entire woods of the Navy base. She’s getting close to a series of bunkers when –
“Stop!” I shout. “Go back.”
She she drags the mouse down until a small gray circle amongst a sea of green appears. There’s a trail leading to it, deriving off the main road.
“Jackpot.” I say.
“Looks like we found this legendary tower.” Rae adds.
I glance back to the computer screen, trying to develop a set of directions. From the looks of it, we need to enter the back gate and take the first right. We bike for about a mile before hitting the underground bunkers by the side of the road. After passing three underground bunkers, we get off our bikes and head to the woods on our left. There should be a small trail that we follow to the tower. Rae seems to have drawn the same conclusion.
“I’ll go get the bikes ready. You should grab a couple sodas and your camera! We need to take some sweet pictures!” Rae says.
“Yeah! We don’t have much daylight so we need to move fast. I’ll meet you outside in five minutes. I’m so pumped.” Finally – something risky to do, I think as I walk off. I’m so sick of living in my comfort zone. It’s just not fun.
Forty-five minutes later Rae and I whip through the back gates of the base. Biking as fast as we can, we start to look for the road on the right. I glance to my left. A huge field sweeps across the majority of the land, with trees hugging the perimeter. Cracked paved roads zig-zag throughout the grassland. They’re runways to a forsaken airport. The desolate loneliness that accompanies this place is eerie, yet peaceful.
Rae is about to make the right turn off the main road but then stops at the beginning of the street. “Oh no.” She whispers.
I skid to a stop next to her, right in front of the road we’re supposed to travel down.
Unlike the lefthand side of the road, the direction we face has no deserted airports. Instead it is astir with wildlife. Birds fluttered about from tree to tree. The buzz of insects can be heard from within the humid forest. Trees line the paved street, as if this road split through the heart of the woods. Scattered construction signs flashed their warnings: trespassers will be prosecuted. This side of the road was alive.
“It’s blocked off.” Rae says.
“Damn it.” I spit the words out with sheer distaste. This was just perfect, I think looking at the obstacle blocking our path. I’ve always wanted to jump a barbed wire fence!
“We don’t have much daylight left.” I say glimpsing at the sky. “We can’t afford to take the long route. We won’t make it there in time.”
Rae looks at me. She has that same dangerous glint in her eye as she had the day we jumped off the walking bridge. We loved risk. This was but a mere obstacle in our path.
The barbed wire fence stretched across the street and as far out as I could see. The section in front of us acted as a gate: only allowing authorized vehicles through. The doors were held together by a chain and padlock – creating a tiny gap; tiny enough for me to squeeze through.
I slipped through to the other side of the road first, then stopped Rae before she could follow suit.
“We need the bikes.”
“What? Why?” Rae asks.
“The sun is about to go down and we have to travel about a mile down this road before we hit the bunkers. We need the bikes.”
Rae grabs my bike first and tries to shove it through the gap. The bike was too big. She looks at me and smiles. For some reason we both like the idea of having to throw our bikes over a barbed wire fence.
“Let’s try lifting it over the gap.” I suggest
Rae grabs my bike by the back tire and the lower support beam. With a deep breathe, she raises it up almost five feet. With any luck the tires will fit through the higher region of the gap and the pedals will go over the top of the fence. However, we haven’t had much luck today.
A couple bikers ride past us on the main road. They glance at us, then shift their gaze to the no trespassing signs. I burst out laughing. They probably think we’re insane! Rae pauses her attempts at shoving the bike over the fence and turns around. She lets out a snort of laughter. She too, has seen the passing bikers.
“Oh! My! Gosh!” I say through fits of giggles. “Our timing couldn’t be any worse!”
Rae becomes weak with laughter and loosens her grip on the bike. Seconds later it comes crashing down, wedging itself in between the gap with the handlebars facing the ground.
“No!” I yell in dismay. I try lifting the bike back up so the pedals can make it over the gate, but the action is useless. Rae and I were on separate sides of the fence. Since the bike filled the gap between us, we had no choice but to continue the process.
I grabbed the handlebars and shifted them multiple times until they entered my side of the road. Rae went to work moving and shoving the pedals. The bike was still in a vertical position when she final managed to pop the last pedal through the gap. The cycle came crashing down at my feet. We still had one more bike to go.
Once both bikes were safely on the other side of the fence, Rae made for the gap. Like me, she squeezes through sideways in order to fit. Somewhere amongst the struggle her shirt gets caught and partially rips when she finally slips through.
I peek at the western sky. “The sun is setting fast. We better start biking.”
My forehead is damp with sweat when we finally notice the two boys. They are walking towards us along the road. One of them appears to be about sixteen with brown hair and blue eyes. He’s dressed in a simple flannel and jeans. The other seems to be the same age, but stockier than the first one. His outfit is more scrappy looking, as if he wore those clothes everyday. Rae and I bike past them without a word.
“Who were they?” I ask.
“I know them.” Rae says. “They go to our school. Do you think they were coming from the tower?”
“Probably. The only thing this road leads to is the underground bunkers and the tower. So what else would they be doing here?”
“True” She aggrees.
“Well,” I add. “At least we know that everyone’s cleared out.” The last thing we need was to unexpectedly run into people at the tower.
A couple minutes later we reached the underground bunkers. They reminded me of the endless rows of san dunes you’d see in a desert. I stop and throw my bike into a ditch near the side of the road. Rae does the same. I walk in between the third and fourth bunker towards the woods.
I pause before entering the forest. “Well here’s the trail.” I say gesturing to a small opening amongst the dense undergrowth. “May I have the honors?”
“Indeed.” Rae replies with a smirk.
I don’t think twice before I plunge myself into the brush. I take a few steps as the trail starts to widen. It was a whole new world in here, the one behind me a faded memory. Stray beams of light puncture the treetops casting about warm shadows. Squirrels jump from tree to tree, ignoring the vast fall beneath them. Sparks of green shrubs illuminate the trail. A twig snapping breaks me out of the mysterious trance.
“Ready for a mild hike?” Rae asks.
I turn around to face her. “Yup.”
“Do you hear that?” I ask after hiking for seven minutes. “It sounds like music”
“I don’t hear anything.” Rae says.
A couple seconds later we enter a rocky clearing in the heart of the forest. The perimeter was densely lined with trees. And there, in the middle of the clearing, sat the satellite tower. I take a deep breathe. I can still hear the music.
“We’ve made it!” Rae exclaims. “This is sick!”
“Yeah!” I agree. “But we’re not alone.” As if on cue, four teenage boys come into view. They are sitting on top of the tower, drinking, smoking, and who knows what else.
“What should we do?” I murmur to Rae. It was obvious that the boys have spotted us.
“I don’t know, but I didn’t go through all that to turn around.” She whispers back.
I agree. “Yeah, to hell with turning around.”
Without warning Rae takes a step forward. “When are you guys leaving?” She shouts.
All four boys look in our direction. The one with the red shirt answers. “We just got here, but we can share. Come up if you want!” He hollers back.
Rae looks at me and smiles. “I guess it’s settled then.”
I return the smile. “I guess it is.”
As Rae and I approach the tower, I notice a fatal flaw in our plan.
My heart drops. “Oh no”
“I can’t believe this.” Rae adds.
“Why does this keep happening to us?” I exclaim, my voice tinged with frustration. “First it’s the setting sun, then the barbed wire fence, then the stupid people who took our tower, and now there isn’t even a ladder!” Was the entire universe set against Rae and I climbing this thing? I refuse to give up.
The ladder that leads to the top of the satellite tower sits on a large metal platform; about fifteen feet high. The ladder ends at a very high terrace, with a trapdoor that opens up to the surface of the tower.
“We need to get on this metal platform.” I say
“But how? It’s fifteen feet high!”
“Let me think.” I frantically look around. “Those metal support beams that branch off the platform.” I say. “If we can jump and grab one of them, we can heave ourselves onto the beam and scooch onto the base where the ladder is.”
“That requires doing a pullup!” Rae shrieks. “I can’t do one of those!”
“I’ll go first then. I’ll help you once I’m up.” I walk underneath the beam, then jump as high as I can.
“You missed it by a few inches.” Rae says.
“I know, I know.” I reply annoyed. Not with Rae, but myself. I jump again.
“You’re so close!”
“Just be quiet!” If I can’t make this jump, Rae and I will have to go home. Everything we’ve went through would have been for nothing. I want this badly. I want a challenge.
“YES!” Rae screams with joy.
I smile, and with one breathe, heave myself onto the support beam into a sitting position. Rae’s gaze is steadily fixed on me as I scooch myself towards the end of the beam, and step off onto the platform. We were victorious, and our journey shall continue.
“You’re next!” I say with a smile.
Minutes later I watch Rae as she finally staggers off of the beam and to my side. She had more trouble than I did. Hmm, I guess all that basketball really does pay off.
I can hear Rae breathing heavily behind me as I walk up to the ladder. I’m giddy with a nervous excitement, the kind you get when you’re on a roller coaster that’s chugging up a hill. I finally realize how hot it is outside. The dense humidity of the forest clings to the back of my neck. I shift my weight from foot to foot, listening to the faint music coming from the boys above. I reach out and grab the ladder.
The instant I grip the cool bar everything fades. The noise, the heat, and the nervousness blur into a forgotten past. It’s as if my peripheral vision has gone black, and all I can see is the task ahead of me. Methodically, I begin to climb.
Every bar is the same. One after the other. I’m emotionless. I’m not scared. I’m not tired. I’m not excited. I’m just breathing. I keep rhythmically climbing the tower.
Then, I stop. I’m about halfway up the ladder.
I look down.
A strange thrill floods my veins. My breaths come out in rapid successions. Hysterically, I let go of the bar, only gripping the ladder with one hand, and angle myself so that I can see the entire woods around me.
It is breathtaking. Brunswick is a different place from above the treetops. I can see the abandoned airport behind the vast expanse of livid green woods. The golf course was to my left. It looked like a large blotch of limegreen in the placid landscape. I listened to the birds, and the evergreens, and the wind. Opening my mouth, I suck in a mouthful of cool air. My emotions are inevitable. I don’t know whether it was love, excitement, bravado, or thrill. But what I do know, is that I feel alive. And I love it. Somewhere, deep within my chest, fear grips my heart. I viciously shove it far away, yet it silently remains present.
With a sigh, I face the later and grip it with two hands. Rae is behind me in close pursuit, so I’m forced to start climbing. However, this time I don’t allow myself to go numb. I embrace this strange feeling, because whatever it was, I liked it.
Soon enough the ladder came to an abrupt end, and I climb onto the terrace. Seconds later, Rae is by my side. I confidently evaluate my surroundings. The terrace is made up of a strong metal mesh. It’s about ten feet by ten feet, with a small fence enclosing the perimeter. Above us is the top of the tower. It’s a huge, circular, satellite platform; about the length of a quarter of a football field. We are well above the treetops.
Rae shifts her gaze to the trap door above us. It leads to the top.
“What a climb.” She says with a grin.
I smile back at her. “Indeed.”
Rae walks over to the trap door. She hoists herself up and through, disappearing to the top of the tower. I follow in her footsteps, and heave myself through the door and onto the top of the tower.
In this moment, I cannot begin to describe the passionate emotion that seizes my heart. The view is indescribable. Anyone that tries to describe it, would fail miserably. I want to cry, and I don’t even know why. Words are useless for a moment like this. Some things in life can only be felt.
The extraordinary view stunned me into silence. Wind silently whispers in my ears, casting about a warm breeze. I glanced to my left. The sun desperately clung to the western sky, sending bursts of colorful rays about the horizon. Forest surrounded the tower’s small clearing from all sides. The woods were largely dominated by the murky green of deciduous trees. Land stretched out for miles, beyond what the eye could see.
I stand up, and notice the four boys on the right side of tower. They were facing east. Away from me, and away from the setting sun. Smoke fills my nostrils, and I snort in disgust. They weren’t even eighteen and they’ve already started smoking. They chose their path.
“Anna.” Rae says. “Come over here.”
I walk over to where Rae sits facing the sunset, and take a seat. Like her, I swing my feet over the edge of the platform, ignoring the endless drop beneath me.
She hands me an italian soda, our personal favorite. “Nothing beats this.” She says with a relaxing sigh.
I look off into the fading horizon. “You can say that again.”
I’m about to lay on my back when I notice something in my pockets. It’s a small bag of almonds. I must have packed it earlier for a snack and forgotten.
Without a second thought, I hurl the almonds as far as I can. They disappear into the hidden clearing below. Rae laughs.
I’ve always hated almonds anyway.
(Rae and I didn’t get a chance to take pictures. Here’s one of my brother and his friend so you can have an idea)