Rock Climbing

So, yesterday I went rock climbing.

As we drive into the city, I take note of it. I’ve only been into (any) city a couple of times; where I’m from, it’s mostly suburban residences and the occasional Wal-mart and Food Lion and school and library. This city, closest to us, sprawls across the horizon like an indolent actress; at night, when we leave the college grounds and head towards the rock climbing gym, the lights shine bright and yellow, the buildings blacker against the dark sky.

Most abundant in this city are hills, steep inclines; and second most abundant are churches and antique stores. It’s an unusual place, a city: people stand on the sidewalks, cars drive too fast, and walking around, you could find most anything you wanted, be it a restaurant, a secondhand furniture shop, a Criminal Justice Academy (right across the street), or a rock climbing gym. At the same time, the concrete sidewalks beneath your feet are cracked, the buildings crowd tall over your head, and their brick surfaces appear rough and dignified.

And then we walk into the rock climbing gym. The lights are not too bright, but the climbing walls are high. I nearly wondered at the significance of putting mats beneath them, because if you fell, how much good would they do? Of course, I’v never really been rock climbing, so I have nothing to judge against. Perhaps the walls are of average height. It doesn’t particularly matter. They are tall to me.

They show the first-timers a video about how to put on the safety harness, the basics of clipping yourself to the rope, what to do when you are climbing and what to do when you are the spotter, keeping the rope taut and keeping the climber in the air when they let go of the wall to rest or come down.

I manage a few climbs, and a couple times “booleying”. My fingers ached after the first time keeping someone in the air; my knees went weak after the first climb. I never make it to the top of the wall, but I make it halfway up before I look down and my stomach clenches and my head grows dizzy. It’s not really the height affecting me — it’s trusting the other person not to let me fall from that height. And I don’t really know anyone going on this trip, except my RA, who I’ve never talked to. But I never fall. Letting go of the wall to rest or to be lowered is terrifying. Clinging to the wall is a kind of comfort, but without it, you’re simply stranded in the air with a safety harness and a rope to keep you from plunging to serious injury.

By the time we get back to campus, my fingers are sore, and when I take a shower, squeezing the shampoo bottle makes my arms ache. But I go to bed pretty happy. This is a new experience to ponder over, one I never really thought I’d have the courage or the will to try.

It’s a strange experience, to try something new. I’ve spent most of my life in my bedroom at home, reading books, listening to music or reading internet articles on my laptop. Over the summer, in fact, I left my house only once or twice a week, and that to go to Wal-Mart.

But here, I have to learn new things. I am not dependent on anyone now; I don’t have to inform my parents I’m leaving my dorm room and going rock climbing. I don’t even have to inform my room mate. No one is forcing me to go anywhere, or leave my room for anything except classes. But I have to keep myself doing something, anything, or I will go slowly crazy sitting in this room.

And honestly, I think I might try this experience again. That is not an experience I have ever associated with any physical activity. But I kind of like this new something.

Walt Whitman Quote

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