I headed toward the precipice. I was only fifteen, but I was tired. Tired, but triumphant. I had climbed the steep hill to the base of Vernal Falls and treaded up the slippery Mist Trail to the top, followed by the hot windy path to the apex of Nevada Falls. It was Yosemite, my favorite place in the world. But I wasn’t happy. I looked at all the smiling, happy people basking on the rocks ahead of me. They sat there with their picnic lunches and bottles of beer, chatting cheerfully and enjoying the sun.
But I hated the sun. It was bright in my eyes and made me tired. I wished I could be like them: normal. But I could never be one of them. I was too strange, different, too sad about life. I didn’t even know if there was a God and if there was one, did he care? My mood went from bad to worse as I climbed toward the top of the fall. The roar of rushing water grew louder as I drew closer.
There was a cyclone fence near the edge, not much more than a railing that stood chest high. At its foot was a tiny trickle, a stream of melted snow. I loved the way Yosemite water tasted. I bent down and cupped my hands, drawing from the stream. The water was frigid, making my hands feel numb. I felt numb.
In that moment, I realized how thirsty I was. I slugged down the water and grabbed more to slap on my hot face. The sensation was shocking and created a slight wave of anxiety. But the coolness was worth it. Refreshing. I felt exhilarated as I approached the fence. But I could still hear the chatter of the people, the world I could never be a part of.
I glanced a short distance beneath me to the top of the waterfall. It had an odd curve near its top. I had never seen a fall with such a curve.
A cool breeze blew in as I stood at the edge of the fall.
Then it happened…
I looked down.
My head tilted downward as I panned my eyes toward the bottom of the fall.
I imagined myself climbing over the fence, jumping, taking a long ride down the waves, and pummeling to the rocky bottom, my body smashing hard on the rocks.
I quickly plunked down on the rocks at my feet, ignoring the small stream as I landed.
I was wet, but alive, trembling.
I knew in that moment I could have done it. I could have died right there, at the age of fifteen, in the most beautiful place in the world.
It would have been ironic and appropriate and my family would have finally seen my pain, realized my grief, but it would have been too late.
But I made a choice that day. A choice not to jump.