Learning to Climb

In this short story, I tell about my adventure in Thailand back in 2006, with two of my closest friends, Neesha and Amy. Wish I was back there!


Brrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnngggg!!! The alarm went off. 5 AM. Startled, I leaned over to turn it off and thoughts of going to work whizzed through my head. I opened my eyes, pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t at home and didn’t have to go to work after all. Stretched out before me through the window was the Indian ocean, off the coast of Krabi. In bed beside me, my friend Neesha slept soundly. I was always envious of how deeply she slept, and she looked like a princess amidst the white sheets. “Wake up!” I yelled, and went to the adjoining room to shake Amy awake. She was another one that loved to sleep, and she couldn’t share a bed either. At almost 6 feet tall, she liked her space and we always knew that if there was a single bed, it had her name on it.

By 6 AM, we were ready to go. We got to the beach and gazed up at the silver cliffs that loomed up into the sky. What an adventure! Amy was terrified and instantly identified a small cliff (more like a rock) on our right that would be her challenge for the day. I had been rock climbing once before back home, but never outdoors and never in such a beautiful setting. Our Thai instructor was a small man with a wide smile, toothy grin, and lots of optimism. Back home we would’ve had to take a course, sign our lives away, and wear a helmet. Here in Krabi, we were handed ropes and a harness and a big smile of encouragement. “You can do it!” our instructor said to us. Neesha went first. She expertly scaled up the cliff like one of the spiders on my balcony, and reached the top like a champ. I was responsible for belaying her. I felt a huge weight on my shoulders as I became aware that my best friend’s life was in my hands. I would later read that “belay” is the most reverent word in the climbing lexicon; it is the ultimate act of trust. I did not take the responsibility lightly, and I followed the instructor’s guidance carefully, keeping the rope loose enough to allow movement, but providing just enough slack in case of a fall. She descended back to the ground gracefully.

I would later read that “belay” is the most reverent word in the climbing lexicon; it is the ultimate act of trust.

I was up next. I started climbing and I wasn’t nearly as graceful as Neesha. My head hit the cliff rocks a few times. Where was that helmet?! My hands were shaking and forearms sore; clearly I had not worked these muscles in awhile. I got about halfway up and I’d had enough. I yelled back down “Ok, I’m done… let me down now!” In response, the Thai instructor smiled broadly and yelled “YOU CAN DO IT!” Was he kidding?! I saw Neesha give him her ‘serious’ look – she knew when I meant business. He wouldn’t budge. He yelled “YOU CAN DO IT! YOU CAN OVERCOME ANY OBSTACLE!” I couldn’t believe he was preaching inspirational sayings while I hung there, exhausted and terrified. I gazed at the ocean through my disbelief; it was a stunning sight. I shouted back to him that I was not, in fact, going to do it. Back and forth we went like that, and eventually I relented. Slowly, painfully, I continued up to the top. And I made it! What I had assumed I couldn’t do, I managed to do with a bit of force and someone’s refusal to give up on me. I felt great, although I made sure to give them both hell when I got back down. But my ear-to-ear smile gave away my satisfaction.

What I had assumed I couldn’t do, I managed to do with a bit of force and someone’s refusal to give up on me.

On our walk back to return our equipment, Neesha, Amy, and I happily ate bananas and strolled under the huge palm trees along the beach. We chatted about how much we’d enjoyed the experience, nerves and all. Suddenly, I was overtaken by what I thought was a meteor. Something hurtled past my head and fell at my feet. My banana splattered everywhere – on my shirt, in my belly button, in my hair. I was shaking all over and covered in banana goop. I noticed that Amy and Neesha had collapsed on the ground laughing once they’d assessed I was ok. It was a coconut! It had fallen out of the sky and straight for my head – and it had missed me by about an inch. Every year in Thailand, a few people die from falling coconuts and I was this close to being the next statistic. Between laughs, Neesha said to me “What would I have told your parents? Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Patel, we did everything we could but the coconut was just too fast for us.” Ha Ha Ha. I wasn’t laughing – YET. I couldn’t believe that I had survived my rock climbing adventure but nearly gone out with a coconut. Shaken but laughing, we continued along the beach and onto our next adventure.

THE END

2 thoughts on “Learning to Climb

  1. Hi Mita
    Having read this piece, my take-away is that one should push on to The Goal, regardless of trepidations.

    Like

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