Precariously Perched

Hey Everybody,

This is another attempt at a personal essay. Not being my strong suit, it would be best to try and keep them coming so that I can either get proficient, or start hearing real opinions about their worth. In any case, read and enjoy!


Sheridan A. Smith

Honorary “Mimir”, Frost Giant



Precariously Perched

My best friend Tyler used to live out in the way out. He lived in Panama New York. Panama Central America would have been too far for us to have seen each other often, but he lived way out enough for me to drive there and take walks surrounded by…nothing. No one, no shops, no cars, no houses.

At the end of his street, one of the few that seemed tucked away from the main streets that people mostly breezed by on, was a gorge. We liked it.

You see, there is a park in Panama called Panama Rocks. It is a place where you can see incredible rocks jutting out of the ground, creating caves, crevices and places on which you could climb and be above everything but the trees. It was intoxicating to climb, but it was still pretty safe.

That, to us, wasn’t necessarily a selling point.

Not sure if you’re aware, but teenagers are perhaps the reason imprisonment was invented. If you lock someone up, they can’t endanger their lives just because they have no sense in them. No sense at all.

Our gorge was the private property area, the area too dangerous to make into a park. This was where we climbed. No matter what the season, no matter how much it could endanger us.

One winter. Yup. I said winter, with all the snow and ice and freezing temperatures and whatnot. One winter, Tyler and I went for a walk and found ourselves, while heading back, on the top of this very large rock. Going back would have been too far out of our way, so we then had only two choices.

Now, I have to be honest with you. There was a lot of ice. Also, we were standing there without ropes. Also, we were standing there in jeans and threadbare sweaters to show how macho we were. Also, and I’m being really honest now, we were strapped with swords.

Okay, I know, “What did you need the swords for, Sheridan?” Well, to you, reader, I say, “We had seen bears and they could be used to cut things that we needed to get out of our way, of course! It’s not like we were just trying to be ninjas before it was cool and walking with swords strapped to our back and playing around with them, endangering ourselves and all kinds of flora and fauna as well. It was a serious tool of some sort of necessity. Don’t laugh. Why are you laughing! That’s it, we’re not friends anymore. Let’s just see who would last in a swordfight with a bear-ninja!”

Wow. That was kinda outta control.

In any case, we had two options. It was getting cold, we wanted to get home quickly, and there was a rather large creek and gorge wall in the way of getting to Tyler’s house. To get down from this rock, we could either try and shimmy down a trunk to a very large tree that had fallen, but one that would carry the shimmier across the creek if shimmied successfully. The creek was frozen, however, so I figured it would be better to climb down the rock, brave a little ice on stagnant water and then jump on rocks across the stream!

The air was cold and we were losing dexterity in our limbs with every minute we talked. This didn’t stop us from arguing in that grey leafless world, on that frozen rock, for quite a while. The blood drained from our fingers and we started to shiver. As with all arguments, it seemed to only further entrench ourselves in the view that we were obviously right, and that the other person was trying to personally attack our ability to think in any capacity.

Tyler and I decided to go our separate ways.

Responsible people would have calmly decided to then pursue their respective ways home and tried to be as careful as was prudent in the situation. We, on the other hand, started off running, assuming as all boys of that age do that this was a race. How could it not have been a race?

I slid off the rock and Tyler shot his leg over the trunk of the fallen tree and immediately started down. We were off and expecting a very clear winner to come out of this.

It would be ridiculous to try and tell Tyler’s half of the story, so I will proceed with mine. Tyler was obscured from view, but we were in almost constant communication.

“The ice is more than strong enough to hold me!”

“Your funeral man.” Said Tyler.

I was standing on a smaller rock looking down at a grey sheet of ice in a small pool that had collected away from the rushing waters that were still liquid about ten feet away from me. I just had to walk this small bit of ice and then stand on much more substantial rocks until I climbed the other side.

Feeling slightly less sure than I had been in the heat of the argument on top of the rock, the nice solid rock, the rock that was still solid when the temperature was 90 degrees out, I tapped my foot on the ice. Nothing happened. Jumping down, there was a sound of motion but I was standing on the ice, not sinking into water.

Stating something triumphant and extremely cocky as I took my first step, I was rudely interrupted by the water freezing me thoroughly as it was now around my waist!

I think it came out something like, “I’m on the ice and nothing happe…” then I screamed in a very manly and not at all embarrassing manor.

After that, it was a torrent of obscenities and exclamations of the unsatisfactoriness of the situation. I was waist deep in freezing water. I couldn’t remember anything other than the urge to keep my sword, a very cheap katana that my Dad had allowed me to get after I didn’t fail summer school, dry and out of danger. My feet were soaked and I couldn’t feel the bottom of the pool, though I was very much standing on it. My knees ached and creaked with every labored step, and the less said about the feelings higher the better.

I used the end of the scabbard to break through the rest of the ice and to try and run to safety. For some reason, I didn’t turn around but I kept going until I got caught on some ice in the creek.

At this point, I knew I needed some help. Remembering Tyler, I looked to my right to see a blade reach high up into the sky and come down with a very sturdy thwack! It rested on his leg, as far as I could see. It rested on his upper leg, seemingly near where I felt the coldest.

“What are you doing?”

“My pants got caught on a broken limb. I need to cut it to get my leg unstuck.” He shouted.

“Get down here, I need help!” I screamed not really having listened all that much.

“I can’t really move at the moment!”

He continued to hack away at the branch. I’m sure it was just the angle, but it looked like he was sacrificing his leg for the race.

I looked of the side of the gorge. It was very snowy with no real way out that I could see. Everything seemed ominously colorless now, and I felt my legs grow painful now. The cold was working its way into me.

Tyler was still sitting in the tree, half way down and probably 50 feet in the air, though I was never great at guessing distances. His camo pants and long sleeved black sweater were the most vibrant things I could see and I, for some reason, immediately saw them become grey and washed out in the snow if we didn’t escape.

This scared me. Trying to break the ice was getting harder so I took the sword out of its scabbard and thrust it into the armour of the water. This seemed to break up the majority of it, so I hopped and high-step ran through the rest of the water.

Without breaking step, I called back to Tyler saying, “Will you be okay?”

“Yeah.” He said, and I ran up the gorge.

That last part I kinda remember. It may not have happened, but I would like to think that I’m not the kind of person that would, without a word, leave my friend to perish in the snowy depths of that place, stuck on a tree with no one to help free him.

I’m not sure how I found a path up the wall of the gorge, but I remember that it didn’t take much time at all. I felt the denim in my pants become very hard and rough. They froze wherever they didn’t have to move. Being baggy, they didn’t have to move much.

My feet were numb and my legs felt very raw, but I ran faster than I ever had. I had run up the wall of the gorge, then I ran towards Tyler’s street, then I ran down that street, then I ran up his driveway and into his house.

I’m assuming his mother asked me something about her son’s wareabouts, but I wasn’t really concerned at the time. Through my mind I had a running slideshow of blackened toes that needed to be amputated.

I ran upstairs and immediately took off everything but my tshirt and wrapped a blanket around me. Tyler’s Mom came upstairs and asked me if I was okay. I told her that I was sorry, but I had fallen in the water and couldn’t wait for Tyler to get here because I was going to get frostbite. She didn’t seem sympathetic until Tyler walked in a couple minutes later.

His camo pants had a large hole in them and he was doing his best to hold it closed without seemed too, um, interested in that region. He changed as I warmed up, and then he offered me some of his pants. My clothes were put in the dryer to become at least damp before I had to wear them again. The pants he offered were, to say the least, several sizes too small, and I couldn’t really make much good use of them so I just stood there, waiting for my pants, laughing about the whole incident.

When you are that young, there doesn’t seem to be anything in the world that can harm you. Even the thought of immortality doesn’t seem to be that farfetched. Tyler and I were good examples of that principle.

Even so, I wouldn’t necessarily trade this memory for one of hot cocoa and episodes of Highlander on channel 27 that evening. We got out and did something! We learned from it and we had a great story to tell later.

The moral of this story, if there needs to be one, is probably this: I won the race because I fell in freezing cold water and could run super fast instead of getting stuck in a tree. Don’t get stuck in the tree, you’ll lose the race.

Kind of a two for, but there ya go.