“I’m on a date in Charlotte North Carolina,” he says sipping his beer. “It’s not going very well, in fact I’m incredibly bored.” He’s letting his beard grow out wild. “Even though I have no interest in ever seeing her again, I am surprised to realize that I am really happy to be here. Happy that I took a chance on someone.” He explains how even though this girl was self involved, high maintenance, and presumptuous- no matter how much of a disappointment this evening was, he was glad to be taking the first steps to moving on.
It’s a familiar story: His live in girlfriend of three years cheats on him. People he thought were his friends turn out not to be. He’s isolated when they began to distance themselves. She’s already launched a full-blown smear campaign to save her skin. To my surprise he’s not as angry about this, only sad they wasted the time. He even seems relieved that it’s finally at an end.
“It’s funny how a terrible date could be just the thing you need.” He chuckles and finishes the rest of his beer. I can tell by his eyes and demeanor that he’s not mean spirited. It’s just a boy becoming a man embracing the lackluster realities of life on this planet. I’m sure he’s going to be okay. He has a resilience about him, but a sadness also.
The park ranger at the ranger station is pointing out an obscure location on the park map. It’s going to be about 30 minutes before I can reach the falls. She says it’s her favorite spot because no one goes there. I promise not to tell anyone, she tells me I better not. The drive was a top the parkway, past the Devils Courthouse, and into the ravine. The light is clear and crisp today like a chandelier.
The gravel road twists and turns by a nearby stream. I stopped for a minute and look around. The light is kissing my forehead as if to bless me today, I see a mass swarm of butterflies rounding a rock on top of each other. I drive till I see the trail head and park my car off to the side in the mud. There are large broken trees obfuscating the pathway, making it precarious. There has been a big storm and there aren’t not enough rangers to clear it, I press on anyways.
The steep trail is slippery with mud and sharply broken limbs jab at me. No one around for miles, I have no service. Thirty minutes later I’m at Courthouse Falls and the wooden stairs leading down to it are decimated by a massive tree. I falter and balance down the wobbly trunk. The water at the foot is a deep solid black. I stand there for a minute and stare down into it, as it stares back at me. A foreboding feeling swallows me.
“Are you afraid to die?” He asks me in the silence of my mind. We then share a quiet moment together. “I’m not so much afraid to die God, as I am dying while not having accomplished what I was supposed to..”. There is a long silence, and the deep dark water begins to look like a mirror. Then I hear him; “Even if you never accomplish what you are supposed to… I still love you no matter what.” I’m stunned and stand there for a moment staring down. The muscles in my shoulders relax, I let out a deep sigh, and wipe the tears from my eyes. The fear completely gone, I dive headlong into the water.