As you can plainly see, it is a horrifying monolith. For one, it stuck at such an angle that I was always afraid it would fall over to the ground; two, it had a disgusting cesspool at its base that bred skeeters and snakes; and three, my friend and his hot-older-sister-who-always-wore-a-bathing-suit always insisted on climbing it and peering over its edge. They called it, innocuously enough, Dolphin Rock (although I may have dreamt that later). I always imagined a more sinister name, like Devil’s Nose or Mocking Gravity.
Not only that, but this unnatural, unsteady, terrifying outcropping stood at the corner of my friend’s property, so that hippies from a nearby dope smoking camp (or something) would regularly trespass to scale the rock and drop their beer cans over the edge, and soak in the sun like lizards.
As the school week progressed I would pray that my friend would not suggest that we go to his grandfather’s ranch, because I knew we’d be scaling that god-forsaken barren rock and again I’d be humiliated in front of his hot-older-sister-in-a-bathing-suit and her hot friends who would, like my friend, just walk up the rock and dance at the top while I would crawl on my stomach like I was taking the next trench in World War I. Heights were never my thing .... I happen to subscribe to that old biddy that it’s not the height that is the issue, and it’s not even the falling, it’s the impact. The bottom of my feet never touched Dolphin Rock, but I’ve shredded the front of many shirts on it. On returning home my mother would say, “What the hell, do they drag you behind the jeep on your stomach when you’re out there?” “No,” I’d say lamely (as if that was a possibility). I could never tell her that I had climbed, nay, belly crawled a ten story high limestone rock against my will, because I knew she’d say, “If you don’t like it, don’t do it.” But I was much too insecure not to join them, having a deep need to fit in and not appear weak, particularly in front of pretty-girls-in-bathing-suits, an insecurity I harbor to this day.
I would justify my cowardness by saying to myself that I was smarter than my friend and his hot-sister-in-a-bathing-suit, because they obviously didn’t grasp simple geometry, the theory of gravity and its inverse square, and how cantilevers work, because if they had they would understand that our weight would no doubt uproot the rock from its base eventually; and without this purchase, we’d necessarily go hurling into the cesspool below to a painful and -- worse -- messy death (all the while accelerating at a mortal rate of 9.8 meters per second squared, if in a vacuum. Yes, I was that kind of dork). And the cesspool presented a whole other set of horrors for me. As a child and now, I can’t stand to be dirty. I dreaded going go birthday parties because I didn’t like seeing the other children with cake icing around their mouths and their hands sticky with Hawaiian punch. As a baby I once cried for hours because I got honey on my neck. Fodder for the shrink in my future as soon as I can afford one.
What was most humiliating was how my friend and his hot-older-sister-in-a-bathing-suit would dance around on the peak of Death Rock and stand on the edge peering over at the cesspool below as I clung shaking in fear to limestone. I still have nightmares about it to this day. At my own ranch we have a cliff that I have never gone anywhere near, yet I still weekly dream about driving my truck off it. Have I mentioned that heights aren't my thing? I get dizzy walking on the second level of malls, and don't get me started on the DF/W Terminal D escalators.
It would be one thing if there was a deep blue lagoon at the bottom to jump into.... that might be worth the danger and the effort. But to climb that terrifying rock just to look at a mud puddle -- I just didn’t see the risk-reward payoff. Even the drug-addled hippies grew bored with Dolphin Rock and stopped trespassing, which was a relief because my friend’s grandfather insisted on calling the federal Game Wardens every time he spotted one, grumbling about “damn teenagers” and “no respect for property.” It was quite a production and needless drama.
At one point, as my friend and his hot-sister-in-a-bikini were dancing around and I was clutching the rock for dear life, I remember seeing my tears falling to the chalky limestone, drying almost instantly in the sun. Here I decided that enough is enough. But I didn’t refuse to scale Dolphin Rock the next time they suggested it -- oh no, that would be the healthy way to deal with the problem. I was raised differently. I simply started avoiding my friend in class, didn’t return his calls, and ducked behind water fountains and dived under bleachers when I saw him. In other words, I simply ended the friendship due to that dreadful rock.
I realize this post makes me seem neurotic, poorly adjusted, passive-aggressive, and a little crazy. But there it is. There’s no point in hiding it now.