Crevasse: (n) a deep, open crack
“It’s just about eight feet.”
God, I hated those words.
Growing up, I was the chubby, endearing, intelligent and funny friend. If you put me in a room watching Chiller Theater or listening to music or eating pizza, I was the star of the show.
But every once in a while, I got myself trapped into doing activities that blubber-boys should never participate in whatsoever.
I was thirteen years old and was asked to go on a hike.
I cannot lie—I went on the hike because at the end of the hike we were supposed to have a cookout over an open fire with marshmallows. They did not explain that there would be a five-hour death march preceding it.
I was panting within fifteen minutes, melting with sweat within a half hour—my legs so weak at the end of fifty minutes that I could barely stand.
This in itself was problematic.
But then we came to the Brave Man Crevasse.
The grown-up in charge of the expedition had mentioned it the night before with starry eyes, nearly breathless over the joy each of us would have in taking what he called “The Great Leap.” Struck by stupidity and still dreaming of marshmallows, I had failed to consider the impact of his statement.
About three hours into the hike, with me praying for death or the second coming of Christ, we arrived at The Crevasse.
Very simply stated, it was where the path ended and then resumed eight to ten feet over on the other side, with a drop of about fifty or sixty feet in the middle
The major problem was that before I could even consider what we were doing or how I personally was going to achieve it, many of my friends boldly took the jump and landed safely on the other side. Applause followed.
Pretty soon it was down to Lance and me. Lance was considered to be the coward of our troop—afraid of every type of bug, and really somewhat terrified of dirt. Lo and behold, Lance decided to choose this day for his epiphany of courage. He jumped up in the air and landed, his foot slipping at the last moment, nearly falling, but grabbed by some nearby buddies, who then alternated with pounding him on the back for his courage and clapping wildly.
So there it was—that universal turn of nine heads in my direction.
Their faces were full of encouragement, nodding as if to send good vibrations in my direction.
I thought about following Lance’s example, then realized I was not born stupid. So instead I stepped to the edge and looked over at the craggy hillside, filled with rocks and bushes beneath. My first thought was, “I wonder if I could survive a fall and get the hell out of here in an ambulance?”
But it seemed unlikely and certainly painful.
The delay was apparently unnerving to my cohorts, because they began to express verbal exhortations, which gradually became more ferocious and even challenging. That’s when the dastardly statement came to be.
“Come on! It’s just about eight feet!”
You see, they were wrong. It was a crevasse. There was no place for feet at all. If it had been just eight feet, I could just walk across. But it was eight huge spaces of nothing but air.
Spurred on by a combination of humiliation, edification and (still) the prospect of dinner, I leaped.
But I did not do it feet first. Instead I leaped with the top of my body toward the ledge, barely catching it with my hands, my feet dangling and kicking, and me ready to fall.
Blessedly, all of my friends who had made it safely to the other side grabbed me by whatever they could reach and pulled me up to safety.
My heart was pounding. It didn’t stop its thumping for a solid twenty minutes.
Every single one of the people who leaped across chose not to talk about it.
I think they were terrified that they nearly lost me in the Great Crevasse on the overly lengthy hike in pursuit of toasting a marshmallow.