i was about eighteen. my friends mark, erin and bombo (R.I.P.) are hanging out in a dorm room in willimantic connecticut and they're talking about going out to the old train trestle that rears thirty feet above the willimantic river to take some arty photos. i'd been there a few times- in my politico days i went to the same spot with my friend shannon to snap photos of AGWAY's illegal dumping of fertilizer in the river. not that the willimantic river isn't already filthy. there are two tracks- one in use, and the other had not been used since american thread was closed in the seventies.
a footnote- i am both acrophobic and i cannot swim. methinks these are closely related.
we walked across the trestle while i tried not to look down. i get really bad vertigo. one by one we climbed down to the cement base embedded in the floor of the river. they had hidden a TOBACCO SMOKING DEVICE there previously and proceeded to get interesting. i at the time did not dabble in these things and stared into the cold water of the spring thaw as erin took some arty black and white photos.
once the art was over it was time to get on back to campus and as everyone climbed up to the top of the tracks, vertigo overtook me. i couldn't do it. i hunched down on the pylon and panicked. i couldn't jump into the river and swim across- for one, the water was freezing and the current would pull me out (aside from the fact that i still CANNOT SWIM) and also i was panicking because i am still quite terrified of heights.
what to do? my friends were already standing on the river bank, stoned and making fun of me. creeps. what i decided to do was this, and i wish i had never done it ever.
the inside ledge of the trestle was about seven inches wide, with crossbeams every eight feet. i was about forty feet from shore. i slowly pressed my back against the steel wall, with the river roaring below. my heart was pounding as though i was going to have an overdose of methamphetamine. i was sweating buckets in thirty five degree weather. keeping my eyes on my feet and moving VERY SLOWLY i crept, step after step along the rail. most of my feet overlapped the overhang as my ratty mohawk flapped in the wind. i was shaking and i tried not to look down. to say that i was scared would be an understatement. i was almost crying. i made it to the first crossbeam as my compatriots sang "just like heaven" by the cure. i could smell the waste in the water and it nauseated me. the rail was slick and i could feel the lack of friction between my combat boots and the steel. next crossbeam. hold on for dear life and brace myself against the wall. i'm staring at greatful dead graffiti. who the fuck would come this far out above death for fun? the dirty water raced over jagged rocks below. i felt sick. i unzipped my leather jacket and sweated a little more. i was jeered from the shore but i ignored it. i was literally the snail crawling across the razorblade, as said in apocalypse now. if i fell, i died. painfully, i could see the bank just about ten feet away but i crawled about twelve inches a minute. sweat rolled down my brow and stung my eyes and i had to stop as i wavered on the precipice. within five feet of shore i jumped about ten feet down, bowing my legs as i hit dry land to the applause of my comrades and noticed a few dirty needles not too far away. never again.