Everyone has scars and every scar tells a story. My brother caused a number of mine. I don’t mean that he was violent or anything like that. But he tended to instigate events which always seemed to leave me with scratches and bruises and worse.
My most obvious scar is a dent in my forehead. I got it when he convinced me that the bathtub was a waterslide, which resulted in me hurtling face-first into the tap. I think I was four or five. There are other scars, other injuries, that have faded away and are no longer visible on the outside. It’s just what brothers do, I suppose. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
From the moment I learned to walk I toddled along after my brother. He was a shy little kid, but I was even worse, so to me, he was a boisterous adventurer. We hurtled around the living room, played cops and robbers with the neighborhood kids, and had water fights in the park. Like all boys, he wanted to be an astronaut. He saved up his pocket money for years to buy a basic telescope and told me all about Jupiter’s moons and comet Hale-Bopp, which appeared around that time. Naturally, I wanted to be an astronaut, too. My brother eventually moved on to more realistic goals. But I still have that childhood dream tucked away in the distant corners of my mind. It’s all the more precious because it was his dream first.
His dreams, his ideas, his schemes, my scars. That pretty much sums it up.
One day, he suggested an adventure. More than that, an expedition. He sat down beside me and explained his plan. He kept stumbling over words in his haste to get them out quickly. His eyes were wide and unblinking and he was gesticulating wildly, so, of course, I knew immediately that it was mad, bad and dangerous. But how could I say no? We had been doing a bit of climbing together around that time, and this was just a logical continuation of that. That’s what he said, anyway. We were going to climb up and then we were going to jump down. It would be brilliant. We would have parachutes, of course, courtesy of my brother. He could make anything and do anything. No problem, it’ll be fun, sis! And we’d be the first people to attempt this jump.
You may already see where this is going.
Most of our climbs had revolved around the local high point which we called Table Mountain. I don’t think it has ever had an official name. I certainly never saw one on a map. Table Mountain was a favorite of ours, partly because it was so close to where we lived and partly because it felt like it was ours. We never met anyone else on our climbs. There were a handful of different routes that we had all tried at different times. I think we must have climbed it dozens of times over the years.
Climb up, jump down. Easy.
For our expedition, we went up the north side because the approach was easiest. It was a steep climb with a bit of a scramble towards the end. My brother was a bit taller than me, so he went first and then reached back down to help me up the tricky sections. We sat on Table Mountain for a bit so I could catch my breath. The view was glorious, as always. I felt like a giant up there, looking down on the toy towns below. My brother had brought some chocolate which he shared with me, and then it was time to prepare the parachutes. We had checked over every inch of them before starting the climb. Every stitch, every thread, every cord was intact, and I had to stop myself from going over it again. All I had to do now was put the parachute on. My brother helped me and I helped him. Then we made our way to the edge of Table Mountain.
The summit of Table Mountain is a plateau, wide and smooth. The sides fall away steeply. My brother found a spot where the plateau formed an overhang so there would be no risk of us hitting anything on the way down. I had jumped a handful of times before, but never from Table Mountain. You might think I was getting cold feet. Far from it. I was buzzing with excitement, teetering close to the edge. My brother held me back while he checked the wind and peered down to find the best place to land. I wanted to leap out into the air immediately but also stay on Table Mountain forever while my brother talked about air currents. He gave my parachute a last glance, asked if I was ready, then took a running jump over the edge.
I followed a fraction of a second later.
For one glorious moment, I hung in the air. I flew! I pictured the parachute filling above me and the two of us floating gently down from Table Mountain. The first humans to parachute down. We’d be famous. It was almost as good as being astronauts together.
Then the cords tangled up and next thing I knew I came to a crashing halt. Pain blossomed in my head. I could taste blood. I remember blinking through my tears to find my brother beside me. He had landed on his feet. He always did, the bastard. His parachute was still fastened around his shoulders and he fiddled with the cords while calls were made to various medical professionals. I have a fairly thick skull, which we already knew from the bathtub incident, so that was all right. And the dentist assured my mother that there would be no lasting damage to my teeth. They were still milk teeth, after all.
The dentist was right. The tooth turned grey and it hurt to chew, but that was that. My mother rolled her eyes and simply put my dinner in the blender for a couple of days. And I never jumped off the dinner table with a paper parachute again, whatever my brother said.