They Were All Yellow

There must have always been stars in the sky, but who knew they could glow until you turned them on.

People don’t actually say things like this to others, but I wonder if maybe they should. Sure, it’s a bit of exaggeration, but there’s a sentiment and truth there that I truly feel along ridge between my memories of learning grade school long division and seeing a star illuminator float towards me, all limbs, and yet all grace, cocking the eyebrow at me in the most humble way possible.

It’s taken quite a while for this unflappable feeling I’m enjoying these days to develop itself. Part of me says, it’s about time that I can handle the lumps along with the cream. Another part knows that it had to take this long for me so that I could fully appreciate how being calm and rational is so much easier than worrying and trying to control everything. That’s not to say I won’t relapse. I feel that’s probably normal and called for. But I am so ready for this calm side of me to take over. She’s much more interesting for one thing. I got to see a lot of her yesterday after I finished my coffee and blogging time. It was an interesting day to say the least.

First, my third published work is now a physical reality. I recieved the proof in the mail and it looks superb. Ken designed the cover on this novella that details a post-acocalyptic love story between a semi-undead sassy heroine and her antagonistic ex-boyfriend. I’m pleased with it, and it provided a great deal of theraputic value to me as I dealt with the flood of 2013 (my affectionate term for this year’s madness). I’m debating whether to put page numbers in the work (it’s only 95 pages) and if it needs an acknowledgement page or anything else before I do a mass print and start to hand sell copies to friends, family, admirers, and those looking for fuel for their winter fireplace stock.

Second, I was invited to go rock climbing again last night by Rachaelle. I had run out of excuses to not go, and although I was shaking with nerves, I manned up and met Rachelle at the climbing gym. Lanks kind-of offered encouragement when I asked him to attend my funeral, to wear red, and sing off-key if I was mortally wounded in my experiment with gravity. He said: “The rocks aren’t going to climb themselves.” Strange, dry humor, but it works for me.

So, I get all strapped up in the harness and click the belt pouch of chalk around my middle. The climbing guide is trying to explain the basics to me and I’m listening, but also looking up, not seeing how I’m going to climb all the way to the top of these crazy walls. There’s tape on all these “rocks,” denoting courses and levels of experience. Everyone here looks like they are chiseled out of stone, and I’m waddling about in this harness thing, legs unshaved and these velcro climbing shoes clashing with my ratty t-shirt. I couldn’t even worry about how I looked. After reading the waiver that allowed me to climb, I was worried about serious injury and incidents due to negligence.

Once the climbing guide finished explaining it all to me, she said I needed to climb up the wall and do a “test fall.” A what? I’m thinking, maybe I should just hand back the gear and say thanks for the explanation. But I’m getting good at following my own advice as far as jumping into these life experiences and riding them where ever they go. I’m hooked up to one of the auto-belay units on the “kid’s wall” and I start literally climbing this wall, putting my hand in the holds and pulling myself up. My arms groan in protest of this unfamiliar action, and my legs are shaking, but up I go. Half-way up, the guide tells me to grab the rope and fall back, kicking off the wall as I go. I’ve got a lot of faith in machines I suppose because I do this, an absolute unreal amount of adrenaline kicking in as I fall and kick this wall on my way down, landing on my feet. What a rush!

I could never have imagined I’d enjoy climbing up a wall, and even less that I’d find the trust in my body and the equipment to fall to imminent broken bones. It’s strange, there’s a bit of mental work to climbing in determining where best to place your feet, and then there’s the power of will it takes to keep climing when your arms are screaming, and then there’s the thrill when you reach the top. True, I only reached the top of the “kid’s wall” but that’s a lot further than I’ve ever climbed before, and my aching arms attest that it was a feat for someone who’s only regular relationship with with using their muscles is to pump syrup into cups. Especially after the Rope Swing Incident of ’08, I feel that my coordination and determination last night was impressive. 

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. In 2008, a group of friends and I went to a lake spot in the wooded area near my house. On the cliff face overlooking this water, there was a rope swing tied to a tree. All the boys of the group were grabbing the rope and launching themselves through the air over the water and then letting go to fall into the pool. The girls were hanging back on the upper rock ledge, while the guys half-way seriously encouraged them to jump in via rope. Well, I’ve always been a bit impulsive, and it was much worse when I was in my teens. I try things before others do, I volunteer for things, I jump up and take the first turn. Maybe I’m brave, but I’m probably also a bit foolhardy. I too wanted to show the girls that ladies can surely do anything guys can. Somehow, between all this, I forgot to think and I forgot that I have very little body coordination. I’ve never even been able to do a cartwheel. My mom, gymnastics camp, and girl scout sports day all were unsuccessful in teaching me the concept of hand, hand, foot, foot coordination that a cartwheel apparently requires.

I stepped up to the rope swing, and I took a running start at it as I’d seen the boys do. Yet, instead of jumping once I had the rope in hand, I jumped ON the rope, gripping it with my soft, studious fingers. My weight came crashing down as I left the rock and my fingers slid down the rope in a blur. Instead of sailing out into the air and towards the water, I went straight down the cliffside, rolling over the rocks and dirt and bushes and THEN rolled into the water. As I went underwater, I heard the group assembled above gasp collectively and a few say, “Oh shit!” The guys were diving into the water after me, but perhaps the years of failed gymnastics had at least taught me how to tumble. I rolled in such a way that I escaped with only a cut on my foot from a rock, and I surfaced with a smile, not quite realizing that I had just rolled down a mountain. Back on the shore, it hit me and instilled a little bit of future caution in me when my friend said, “We thought we’d just watched someone die.”

At least I got a good story out of it! I laugh now, but I hope that’s not what they put on my tombstone. The point is, rock climbing was a fun and interesting new experience. I’m glad Rachelle badgered me into it and out of my comfort zone. I want to do more things like this, cautious acts of boldness and endeavors of knowing so that I can look back and say I’ve utilized all the experiences that have come my way. But the day wasn’t over yet! Lanks and I had a conversation that was quite harrowing and still mystifying.

The boy and I text each other in a way that’s more similar to a blender operation manual than as to how two normal humans should probably text. I tell him about rock climbing last night and he offers his “advice,” and then he asks “What’s the worst thing you can think of?” I’m reading the “Power of Myth” by Joesph Campbell and I’ve just learned what subincision is and so that surfaces to my mind as something pretty terrible to imagine. This is what I text him. He says he can think of worse. My response: oh really? Sometimes he hyperboles, but he really did think of a worse thing and it turned this slightly casual, almost gamelike conversation on its ear.

“Total sequestration from human society. A separation from emotions so distant one can only mimic the actions associated with them and wish them to be true. Involuntary, a prison to fate. A meer puppet made self-aware against its will.”

At this point, I’m almost certain he’s referring to himself. I’ve thought before that he shared a lot of attributes with the actions those with Asbergers identify with, and this message was coming through as a way of him telling me this or telling me he felt this but didn’t know what it was. I replied with consolation for any individual trapped in this way of thinking, and shared that I had heard people with Asbergers Syndrome make similar comparisons to processing emotion. He didn’t reply. I was worried I had made him mad, or that he was afraid of telling me his suspicions that he might share some characteristics of the syndrome. Or maybe he’s just depressed? Or maybe he’s just thinking of the worst things he can because retail does this to you? Either way, I wanted him to know it doesn’t matter to me what he’s got. He can foam at the mouth with rabies and I’m still going to think he puts stars in the sky. But I’ve read a good bit on Asbergers and Autism Spectrum Disorders since my suspicions of these characteristics in him started about two months ago, and I realized he may need space to process if what he was saying was what I thought he was saying.

The jury is still out on it because I haven’t heard anymore about it. I texted him a knock knock this morning. He replied: who goes there? I said, Doctor. And he said: Which one? You’ll have to be more specific. I replied: Any one you want, dear. And so if nothing else, we can be nerdy about Doctor Who together no matter what emotions do or don’t get in the way.  

It’s hard to know where the day is going to go, and what stories I’ll have to tell, but I asked for writing material and yesterday sure did provide. I’ll keep you all in the loop!

-Anna R. Kotopple


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