Unintentional Bravery

April 8, 2011
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It was as if there was a stage 9 earthquake erupting in my stomach as soon as I took that first step onto the squeaky rigid metal beam that had enough rust built up to engulf a building. I had no interest in looking down so instead I looked ahead where you could see for hundreds of miles at the neighboring towns and the curves and routes of the river. I opened my mouth briefly so I could taste that moisture in the air but mostly so I could take a deep breath to relax my nerves. It was finally judgment time and there was no turning back, I could see the blood rush out of my left hand from how hard I had been squeezing the metal beam that was the only thing keeping me from falling. Suddenly a bad feeling came over me that made me reconsider my bravery until before I knew it I felt a hard push from behind that sent me flying, literally sent me flying. On my way down I could hear the gasps and cries and cheers from all the bystanders that had been there to watch me attempt my leap of faith. I was now in free fall and from the sound of the splashing of water below I knew It was time for impact.

At times I feel like no one will ever really understand my fear and memories from that traumatic day at the Magdalena River. Through time and gaining of knowledge I have found many new and helpful ways to share and express my story. In the English language there are thousands of tools that we use as writers that can help us to paint better pictures in our readers mind and a particular one that I have come to admire a lot is imagery. Imagery has no boundaries or set laws or rules that we must abide by as opposed to other literary devices such as similes and metaphors. No, instead imagery is for the imagination which makes this one of the most powerful tools that a writer can possess. The great thing about imagery is you have the ability to express all your five senses in your writing. Imagine telling a story from your childhood to someone who has never heard it before. Even though the story could impact them or they could use their imagination to really paint your story in their mind it still has no comparison to using imagery. Now imagine retelling that story to the same person but this time you tell them what the conditions were like, what you were hearing, what you saw all around you, what taste was in the air or even in your mouth and most importantly what you felt. I think this time around your listener will understand your story in full detail as opposed to trying to picture it on their own.
It was just like any other day, Juan and I were skipping rocks across the Magdalena river and watching the older kids jump off the bridge as usual as they placed bets to see who would be able to swim out before the current washed them away into the next village. It was incredible to see them risk their lives for mere amusement. It made me want to be brave and courageous just like them but deep inside I was cowering like a normal 8 year old would be. It was only a matter of time before I was convinced into it by the older kids and before I knew it I was 80 feet high standing on a metal beam no wider than a few inches. The moisture from the water below had risen and gave the metal a slippery feel to it which I could feel underneath my bare feet. After being pushed in I remember thinking about the possible rocks I may hit that were hidden beneath the current, or if I would be in the path of an oncoming boat. But worst of all how was supposed to swim out? I had seen many strong swimmers be swept down for miles because of the pull of the river and now I was stuck in the same predicament. After hitting the water fairly hard everything went dark and cold, instantly I could feel my body being pulled downstream. The air bubbles that I had created from impact gave me kind of a boost upwards just enough to allow my head above water. When I finally hit the surface my vision was blurred from the water in my eyes but I could just make out my position and realized I needed to start swimming towards the right where many branches were outstretched into the river making it easy to escape the current. I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins as I started my path towards the edge. Every kick and stroke felt like I was being propelled faster and faster towards the edge, I even closed my eyes after a while and shut out all my senses just to help myself concentrate on my breathing and getting to the edge. Just as I was running out of gas I had the feeling that I was so close to the edge that I could reach out and grab one of those outstretched branches and pull myself to safety but after a few attempted grabs from my outstretched arm I looked up to find myself about 50 yards from any branch. I had made good progress from the middle of the river but the current had won and pushed me far away from any branches. As I turned around again I could see the rivers path about a mile down where the current picks up and would make it harder for me to escape.
After watching the bridge with my friends on it still cheering me on disappear in the distance I started to feel the fatigue set in which made every kick burn with intensity. My arms became like jelly and I could feel myself get lower and lower in the water. For a moment or two I thought about just going under and giving up and hoping that someone would rescue me before it was too late, but I remembered when my father was teaching me how to swim that if I ever felt too tired to swim or stay above water that I should just push my stomach out and float. For a few minutes It worked and it gave me some of my strength back, enough strength to keep my head afloat. All of the sudden I felt a mushy substance squeeze itself through my toes, I could feel the sticks and leaves get dug into my shins. By some miracle I had ended up at the edge to the river where the current is weak and the water level is low. Exhausted I crawled my way out of the mud and onto land where I laid on some hard tree roots coming out of the ground. When I opened my eyes I could see the sun coming through the branches and leaves of the tree, I could feel my breaths getting shorter and longer, the taste of the river water still in my mouth, but nothing compared to hearing the frantic calls of my friends coming from upstream. I laid there for a few minutes and wondered about where I would have been if I hadn’t made it out or if I would even be alive. When my friends finally reached me they were relieved to see me breathing, they repeatedly told me how stupid and brave I was and how I managed to escape.
To this day I still remember almost every detail about that event, I guess when something really scares you or makes an impact on your life you can remember most of it even if you are younger. Imagery is such a powerful tool that because of it I can now replay that same event in other people’s minds as they read my story. I believe that in order to tell a story in depth one must use imagery and a lot of detail so that your story can be fully understood. By adding your five senses in your story it lets the reader understand what you were really feeling during that event. I never jumped off the bridge again because I moved shortly after that took place but I hope to go back one day and jump off again just to possibly try to relive the event that made such an impact on my life.





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