I lost my grip on the rock and slowly started falling backwards. Two seconds of slow falling and then I accelerated. Every detail is time-stamped on me.
One-Two-Three-Four! I remember that for these first four seconds, I was mad with disbelief — so suddenly upset by destiny — and annoyed that my crazy plan of arriving at the beach by descending the impossible surface of the very steep rock wasn’t working out.
Five! By the fifth second, I was already falling very fast.
Six-Seven- Eight! I could only see a void and the edge of rock about 30 meters away. I thought — no, I knew — I was about to die.
Nine-Ten seconds pass. But I couldn’t see the other side of the rock. .
Eleven! I land on my ass on a piece of the rock. In a brief microsecond of the eleventh second, I feel relief and hope. Twelve-Thirteen-Fourteen seconds pass and I start falling again — this time incredibly fast. A voice inside me cried, “Oh God!” Weirdly, I had the time and the presence of mind to remind myself that I didn’t believe in God. I couldn’t count on Him. So I took my prayer back.
Fifteen-Sixteen! I felt my palms burning — holes were literally forming in them. I put all my effort into keeping my hands clamped down on the surface of the rock. I did the same with my ass and my back, which were also burning
Seventeen! Again I notice the edge of the rock, certain that I’m about to die. I risk a glimpse at the beautiful landscape around me. I feel enormous pity and regret about my passing away
Eighteen! I must have been rolling at that point because I have specific flashbacks — mixed images of rock, sky, rock, and then, suddenly, a little tree on the far left.
Nineteen: a violent impact. I smash violently into a tree, hitting it first with my jaw and then with my forehead. Pure blackness framed my consciousness, and then, just as quickly, my eyes opened. The sky turned cloudy-gray overhead. My jeans were ripped apart. Blood was everywhere. But I didn’t know all this. I realized that I was still alive, and that it was about to rain. The change in weather seemed strange, because until that very moment, that very second of that day, Monday, June 1st, 2010, it had been sunny out. I was suddenly deeply tired, and thirsty, and I felt a rush of gratitude for the presence of that little tree. I now feel that if we do have religious feelings they should be directed exclusively toward trees. They seem to be the only truly holy creatures surrounding us.
As I regained consciousness, I started thinking of my Blackberry, wondering if it was still intact. I thought, “I can take some black-and-white pictures with it and post them on Facebook.” I tried to reach the back pocket of my Levi’s, where it was located. But the entire back of my pants was gone. Miraculously, my Blackberry was safe inside my little American Apparel bag that still hung from my shoulder. But my hands were covered in blood, so I couldn’t use it. The realization of this brought on a brief moment of panic. Then it started to rain and I turned my palms towards heaven so that the rain would wash some of the blood away. I opened my mouth to drink some of the rain. In some strange way, the rain relaxed me and made me feel happy. Everything that happened up until that moment, including my fall, made me realize that the one thing that really matters is just staying alive.
I don’t remember how I walked the difficult terrain to the beach. When I made it there, I looked back at the rock, and in a loud voice, somewhere between a moan of pain and a cry of passion, I offered thanks — to everything. I thanked the tree, the rain, the rock, and the mountain for existing — and for allowing me to exist.
Miltos Manetas, Mt Conero, July 2010.
Written for Purple