There are some who are meant to climb. To secure for themselves a vista rarely seen. To look up, to wonder, to conquer. For something in their nature, an unnatural trait some would say, spurs them upward. They don't find the same peace on the ground that they can find in the heights and the heavens. Pedestrian pursuits they endure until they no longer have to endure them - until the next opportunity to climb presents itself. And, these intrepid explorers follow their desire to the top, leaving us behind. There are some who must be left behind. Despite their wishing and envies, their longings to look down upon the world rather than up, their destiny resides on solid ground. And they cannot follow those who climb; nor should they. Rather than know the terrain few have tread atop the pillars of this world, those who stay behind remain content in the uncertainty, in the not knowing. These individuals were meant to look up, to dream, and to wonder.
"Have you let Jesus Christ into your heart?" inquired Laughing Boy.
"Yes, I have. I'm Catholic," responded the bench-sitter.
"I was a Catholic once too," I noted.
The Brooklyn Bridge has resided too closely to Laughing Boy's exploring soul for too long. The only thing between the our position on the walkway and the top of the tower remained two slack-jawed twenty-somethings loitering on a bench twenty-five feet from the ascent point. Fear had been relegated to apprehension already. Courage had been manufactured pain-stakingly and with diligence. The route mapped, the location scouted, the margin for error minimized. All of these accomplished, a solution to the Gen X problem was needed.
Two such solutions presented themselves. Kick their ass or invoke the Lord's name in the hopes that two Bible-thumping evangelists in their presence would be enough to so rightly ruin the view of New York Harbor they had been enjoying, hastening their early exit. Ordinarily, the Project wouldn't encourage such drastic and cruel subterfuge as talking about Jesus to complete strangers, but this was the Brooklyn Bridge and it was going to be climbed that night.
"We're fine here, thanks."
"God bless you."
Damned papists. They didn't budge. Not after ten minutes of staring at them, not after taking their picture, under the auspices, of course, of praying for their adulterous souls.
There are sixteen possible routes to the towers of the World's Most Famous Bridge, eight of which we surmised as worthy candidates, two of which we regarded as preferential, and one as optimal. The god-lovers would have an unobstructed view of the climb directly to the top. Another route was engaged.
Foot traffic had subsided considerably in the twenty minutes we had been on the bridge, but was nevertheless annoyingly sporadic. Examining the terrain one last time, noting the traction on the cable, and tidying up loose articles, the decision was made. A window of opportunity presented itself. Green light.
Laughing Boy attacks the suspension cable, quickly navigates the iron grate placed there to prevent just this sort of activity, and deliberately proceeds up, into the darkness. As I watch him from the boardwalk, part of me wants to be there right behind him. Another part of me makes it clear that I will, in all likelihood, never be there. Minutes later, I can hardly see him. Those passing on bikes and on foot, those who don't know he's there, continue on towards their destinations in Brooklyn and Manhattan unaware of the explorer above.
Watching Laughing Boy disappear into the darkness at the top of the tower, I realized the solitary nature I would have to learn to accept and eventually internalize. As long as I remained behind, for whatever reason, I would be alone and had better get used to the idea. Thankfully, there is a wisdom in solitude that assuages frustration, however imperfectly. Regardless, it was frustration that seemed to define the first long minutes.
While he stood at the top of the bridge, he owned it right then - and everyone on it. No one else at that point in time had his view of man's marvelous urban creation, of the lights that shown up to illuminate it and the darkness that descends upon it. I envied him.
Alone, I stared over the harbor, wondering what the view must be. I thought about what made us different, he and I. About why he was up there and I remained down here. Many theories came to mind. None of them, in the end, really mattered. Because it came down to a simple notion all-in-all: he needed to be there. For as long as I can remember, he's needed to be there. And, honestly, there is nobility in the simplicity of it.
On that bridge, I finally made peace with it.
Returned from his adventure, Laughing Boy answers my many questions about what it was like, what he felt, and what he saw. We both knew that words could never fully describe it all. Nor should they. Maybe that fact alone will spur me along on one of his adventures some day. Right then, though, it occurred to me that there were still adventurers in this world and that I was glad of it. For until we make our own adventures, bearing witness to theirs is all we can do.