For most of my adolescence, half of my house was a giant hole in the ground. My parents, eager to rid themselves of the space they rented on Trask Street, decided to transform a big chunk of the back yard we had into two spacious studios, where they could concentrate on their art without having to contend with junkies and car thieves. So they built. And built. And built.
Before school some mornings, as the construction crew was digging the foundation for the addition, they would let me drive the Bobcat or dig with the backhoe. But that was before I twelve. I digress.
When the walls were up and the roof was shingled, scaffolding ringed our house. For a twelve-year-old boy, this was irresistible, and my parents couldn’t have kept me from climbing on it if they’d electrified the whole thing. I was a moth to a flame–a moth wearing high-grade fireproof pants. I scaled the rickety metal, and scampered across the uneven wooden planks like a monkey. And then I made it to the roof.
This definitely wasn’t my first time jumping from the roof, but it was the best. I didn’t know why, but I’d long ago figured out that crumpling or rolling after jumping from a high place would reduce the strain of impact. Still, looking down, my guts squirmed in anticipation. I backed up a few paces up the sloped roof, took a deep breath and let gravity carry me.
And with a push, I launched myself out to avoid landing in the juniper bush growing against the side of the house. Time did not slow down. The grass rushed toward me in a green blur, and I let my knees collapse, tucking my shoulders and head into my stomach. Momentum carried me forward across the lawn, and I rolled like a wheel. I stopped suddenly, having crashed into the agapanthus bushes that separated the soft lawn from the concrete sidewalk.
When you’re a boy, moments like this, sprawled in the bushes, gasping for breath, legs all akimbo, stave off the natural impulse to off oneself. At least until the bruises heal, that is.
After that, anything goes.