one step

January 4, 2011
By Marie Pollock BRONZE, Atkinson NE, Nebraska
Marie Pollock BRONZE, Atkinson NE, Nebraska
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The Grand Canyon looks so beautiful at sunset just like a postcard. Reds, oranges, and pinks shine against the sinuous red stripes of the Grand Canyon. They remind me of the stripes of strawberry stains on my mother’s white apron from my little brother’s strawberry patch adventures, or the blood stains on my sheets where I wiped the blood from my wrists. I only did it a few times… it helps me deal with the stress. It’s just a little cut now and then. I wonder what my blood would look like smeared against the wall of the canyon. It will probably be more splatters than stripes. No orange, no pink, just red blotting out the beautiful postcard scene. One step that’s all it would take, one little step.

It was the summer after my senior year and we were on one of our memorable annual family vacations: Bahamas, San Padres Island. Joey had always seemed to make the vacations worth it. This year my parents had decided to go to the Grand Canyon. In retrospect this probably wasn’t a very good decision on my parent’s part.
JOEY: Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
DAD: No, Joey, it’s a five-mile hike. This is the trailhead, so it’s only the beginning.
SARAH: FIVE MILES? How the heck do you expect us to walk that far?
MOM: Don’t worry; we’re just hiking up. There’s a bus that will take us down.
JOEY: FIVE MILES! That ‘s like all the way to the moon! All right!
DAD: Not quite, mister, but close enough. (Chuckles)
SARAH: No wonder we’re starting this early in the day to get there by sunset. I agree with Joey. It will be like walking to the moon!
JOEY: Houston- cchh- over.
SARAH: Roger, hear you loud and clear!
JOEY: Ready for lift off, do you copy?
SARAH: Copy, T minus 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Lift off!
(Joey runs in circles and makes lift off sounds)

SARAH: One small step for man,
JOEY: One giant step for Joey the Incredo Man Astronaut.

I had always been terrified of heights, Acrophobia, that’s what I have. But I now realize something. I thought that I feared heights because I was afraid to fall, but today they don’t scare me so much. Maybe some how I was just afraid to fall or fail in life. I had always met the expectations that my parents had set for me. What would I do if for some reason I couldn’t meet those expectations? What if I failed at something that was just as important to them as life itself? My parents would never see me the same way. Now I realize that it’s not the idea of falling that I’m so afraid of. It’s the fear of jumping. All I would have to do is take one little step. Walking is natural. I had to walk to get up here. Why not take a few more steps?

MOM: Sweetheart, come on, you’re going to miss the sunset!
DAD: Come on, kids, let’s go. This is going to be an amazing view. We better hurry if we want to make it there for sunset.
SARAH: Sure, Dad.
MOM: Honey, what are you eating?
JOEY: A Pringle.
MOM: Honey, where did you get that?
JOEY: From the car, it was on the floor.
MOM: Honey, (pause) we didn’t bring any Pringles!
SARAH: Come here, Joey, you can have some of my M&M’s.
JOEY: Thanks, Sis!
SARAH: Oh, um, I didn’t mean all of them. Oh, well, you can have them.

I think that’s why I went on that Motrin kick about a year ago. At first it was because I really did have headaches, but then the dosage got higher, and I found myself not needing a reason to take it. I’d just take the pills. At one point, I think, I was up to eight or nine every four hours. Now I realize that I wasn’t taking them because I liked them or because I was addicted: I was trying to build up an immunity, just in case some day I did try to overdose. Maybe if my body was used to it, I thought, someone could save me. But then again the whole point of an overdose is not to be saved.

MOM: Oh, looks at that rock, honey! Look at the way it shimmers in the sun. . . gorgeous.
DAD: Yes, sweetheart, it’s a lovely rock.
MOM: Kids, let’s take a picture by this rock.
SARAH: Joey, come on and stop sniffing that bug.
JOEY: Urgh! But it smells like fruit!
SARAH: Well, then how about you grab it and it can be in the picture too.
JOEY: YEAH!! Dad, get a picture of me, Sarah, and the bug!
DAD: Okay, kiddo. (Click)
DAD: Okay, you two now go stand by your mother.
SARAH: I’ll take the picture, Dad. You go stand over there. You three should be in the picture together.

Our last family picture. I just hope that Joey realizes that I’m doing this for him, so that he doesn’t have to go through what I have had to.

MOM: Let’s all is in the picture. Look there’s a group of people. I’m sure they’ll take our picture. Hello, do… you … speak… English?
Tourist: No comprende
MOM: Can … you… take… our … picture…? (Motion with camera)
Tourist: Si!
MOM: Fantastico! Everyone together!
Tourist: Uno.. Dos… Tres…! (Click)
DAD: This will be one to put in the family photo album. Great memories, huh, Sarah?
SARAH: Sure, just what you said.

My parents went to Yale. Dad was the president of his fraternity and Mom was student body president. Now Dad’s a lawyer and Mom’s an ER doctor. They met at Yale at one of Dad’s frat parties. All they ever wanted for their little girl was to go to Yale

DAD: Sarah.
SARAH: Yes, Dad?
DAD: Please come here.
SARAH: Is something wrong?
DAD: You tell me.
SARAH: What are you talking about?
DAD: I got your midterm report card today… an A- in pottery? How do you get an A- in pottery?
SARAH: My pot blew up in the kiln, so I wasn’t able to get a grade on it.
DAD: Why are you even in pottery? Yale isn’t going to care about how pretty your pot is.
SARAH: Sorry, I don’t know. I took it because I thought it would be fun.
DAD: Well, you still have the rest of the semester to get you grade up and then we’ll make sure to get you out of that class. We don’t want anything to hurt you perfect GPA.
SARAH: Okay, Dad.

The Grand Canyon is 6000 feet deep, but you wouldn’t fall all 6000 feet. There are a lot of ledges that would stop you. You would probably only end up falling a few hundred after that first step.

Teacher: Hello, seniors and parents of the class of 2010. I would like to welcome you to our spring ceremony honoring our scholars including the announcement of this year’s salutatorian and valedictorian.
MOM: Oh, honey, I know you are going to get it.
DAD: Good thing we got you out of the pottery class. Valedictorian will look great on you application for Yale.
JOEY: Can I go with you to the front of he stage and sing my song? Beans, beans the magical fruit the more…
SARAH: More you eat the more you…
MOM: Shhhhh,
SARAH and JOEY: (giggling)
Teacher: So with out further ado the valedictorian for the graduating class of 2010 is … Sarah Kohlway.
DAD: Way to go, kid!
JOEY: Can I go up there NOW and sing my song? Beans, beans. . .
MOM: (covers mouth) Shhh, honey. (Looks at husband.) Why did you ever teach him that?

They say that you don’t die from the impact of hitting the ground. They say that you have a heart attack on the way down, that you never actually feel the crash. I don’t believe that you die from a heart attack. I think that your heart just realizes that it is finally free. Your body just lets go of everything because you don’t have to worry anymore!

MOM: Wow, Sarah, your morning runs are really paying off. You’re really booking it!
JOEY: Hey, Mom, look it’s a squirrel.
MOM: Yes, honey, it’s a squirrel. Don’t provoke it or it will attack you.
JOEY: His cheeks are all puffed out.
DAD: That’s because he’s got food in them.
JOEY: I’m hungry. When I get some food, I’m going to make my cheeks look like his.
SARAH: You look just like a squirrel! … What about me, do I look like one? (Puffs out cheeks like)
JOEY: Yep!

They’ll find the letter when they get home. It’s sitting on the bed. It’s in a small envelope, not a big one. The small letter is set on my bed next to a large pile of big letters. But the only one that matters is the small letter. The ink is probably smudged from all the tears that I have cried. I haven’t slept since then; that was three days ago.

MOM: Sarah, come back. You’re walking way too fast!
DAD: Oh, just let her go, hon. She’ll be fine: she’s a big girl.
JOEY: SARAH! Wait up!
MOM: No, Joey, you’re going to stay with your father and me.
JOEY: Aw, Mom, you never let me do anything! Sarah, I wanna come!
SARAH: Sorry, hon, you can’t come this time.
JOEY: But I’m your buddy. I love you!
SARAH: I love you, too.
DAD: Meet you at the top, kiddo! She’ll be fine, hon. You’re going to have to let go sometime, you know. She is going to college in a few months.
MOM: I know. It’s just so hard.
DAD: Speaking of college, any word back on Yale?
MOM: Not that I know of.
DAD: Well, hopefully, there will be a big envelope in the mailbox when we get home.

I’ll never get to see him graduate or get married. But it’ll be worth it if it means that he won’t have to go through what I have had to. I’m doing this for him; I really am. I love him so much! This is for him. There isn’t any other way. Is there?

MOM: Sweetheart, back away from the edge. You’re too close, honey, step back!

Harvard, Princeton, Brown, they were all in the big envelopes. Yale was in the small one. All they ever wanted was for me to go to Yale just like they did. All they asked of me was one little thing, and I couldn’t do it. How was I supposed to tell them that I didn’t make it?

SARAH: I love you, Mom.
MOM: I love you too, honey, now step back.

They’ll know when they find the letter when they get home. I only wanted to make them happy, be who they wanted me to be, bee just like them. But for Joey, it’s worth it, isn’t it?

SARAH: I’m so sorry, Dad.
DAD: Sorry about what?

The canyon is so beautiful. I wonder how long my blood will stain the canyon walls. How long it will take to fade into the reds that are already there. One step away from Joey. . . forever.

SARAH: I love you, Dad.
DAD: Sarah, what’s going on?
JOEY: Sarah, you’re scaring me. What are you doing?

I’ll never get to see him get married. But it’s for him. I have to do this, for him! Don’t I?

SARAH: I love you, Joey! (Crying)
JOEY: Sarah?
SARAH: Nothing, Joey, we need to get away from the edge.
JOEY: Okay, hey, look, there’s a squirrel! (Joey jumps up and down.) AHH! (He slips.)
SARAH: Joey! (He is hanging on by fingertips.) Hang on! I’ve got you.
JOEY: Don’t let go! I love you! (His hand slips.)
SARAH: Noooo!

His blood doesn’t blend in. The reds don’t fade. They will never fade! It didn’t streak and it didn’t splatter. They say that you don’t die from the impact. That it’s the fall that kills you. I hope that’s what happed. I hope he didn’t feel anything. I feel it, though, every day. Every morning when I wake up it’s like waking from a dream where I jumped to the nightmare of reality where Joey fell. Every time I blink and the cool blackness consumes my irises the images of the blood pierce through and that’s all I can think about until I blink again, and it all starts over. I will never get to see him graduate or get married or anything. One little slip, that’s all it took. I was the one who was supposed to fall! Not him! I was supposed to do it for him so that he could live a better life! It was supposed to be ME! I’m sorry Joey, I’m so sorry.

SARAH: I love you too, Joey.

The author's comments:
In honor of all of the kids who feel pressured by their parents in making college decisions.

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