My wife and I took a break from the bills and the bosses and the bombs to visit
Magic Mountain, an amusement park much like Disneyland, only it's enjoyable.
Roller coasters abound!
Yahaira and I were meandering in our loop d' loop afterglow when we happened
on a rock climbing wall. Who would have thunk? I beheld the fa?ade with boyish
eyes. Ooh. Rock climbing.
The cliff was two stories high and spattered with footholds. People were
falling off left and right. Once you let go, your turn was over. I had to
The kid directing the show was 20 years old but hadn't graduated high school
mentality. He was trapped in the Cocky Stage. He looked at Yahaira like he
could have sex with her if he only wanted; he regarded me as the man in his
way. We'll call him Jeremiah.
Jeremiah swaggered over and asked me what level I preferred.
"Advanced," I said.
He smirked at my confidence.
"You sure?" he said.
Not anymore, I thought.
"Very," I said.
Jeremiah strapped me in and sent me on my way. Standing at the bottom of
this thing, you realize that it's not only vertical but slants back toward
you like the inside of a ball. Does that make sense? Are you with me? I'm
The first few yards were easy, but then the holes grew shallow and scarce.
I stopped making headway and got dizzy instead. My knuckles turned white;
I began to shake. My brain knew that I was safe, but my body panicked anyway.
And at that moment, for the same reason one picks at an open wound, I pictured
myself dying on a real mountain.
My hands let go without even asking. I dangled in the air for all to see.
Jeremiah pulled me down slowly. When I hit bottom, he shook his head and
said, "Not as easy as it looks, huh?" I hated that kid.
Yahaira and I roamed the park for new thrills, but part of me was still
hanging from the rocks.
Yahaira couldn't take my silence: "For heaven's sake, go back and do
The beast loomed ominously on the horizon. I eyed the summit, the promised
land. A sense of implication swelled in my stomach. The Wall had become a
rite of passage, a symbol for everything I stood -- er, climbed for. It was
the journey of the hero and the SATs all wrapped into one.
It was My Second Chance.
Jeremiah double-took when he saw me. A loser had never resurfaced before.
Strapping me in, he said, "Sure you don't want to try the Beginner?"
"Very," I said.
Punk, I thought.
This time I climbed as if my dignity relied on it mainly because my dignity
relied on it. I conquered the first half in no time. Then I reached the tiny
hollows, which forced me to claw with my fingertips. And as much as a guy
visits the gym, he just doesn't have much finger brawn. The vertigo returned.
My forearms trembled.
Don't you dare! God is watching. Yahaira is filming!
A crowd developed below. They didn't give a hoot about me; they just wanted
their turns. I got the sense that I was taking too long.
I thrust myself to the next ledge, and my heart began to race. Again the
fear. My body wouldn't obey my command to move it, sissy. The pain of clinging
overwhelmed me, and with toe-curling anguish I finally let go of the dream.
So I hung there in my disgrace. And hung. And hung.
I looked down at Jeremiah, and he was waving me on.
"Keep going?" I yelled.
He gestured more emphatically. Go on, go on.
Jerry! My man! Who would have thunk?
I gripped the rocks with renewed finger brawn. The crowd sighed for having
to wait. I climbed like Spiderman. As I neared the finish, Jerry yelled, "Hit
The thump echoed off the magic mountains into my eternal memory. Yahaira
smiled behind her camera. It warmed me like a casserole marinated in capers
and vinaigrette. I was on top of the world.
Leaving the park, I gnawed on the poem...
Just when I surrender, a guy like Jeremiah steps in to offer his hand. The
rules change. Everything works out. So it goes on the wall of life. The funny
thing about miracles is that they never happen the way you plan them.