I think I was about 12 or 13 years old when my Mom took me for an adventure in the rope park. I clearly remember it was the end of August and the trees in the park have just started to fade and turn yellow reminding about the forthcoming autumn. I would often look at those ropes and people climbing on them when I was going to school past the park in the bus. I was not even aware that I wanted to try it someday. I just knew it existed, the adventure of walking on pieces of wood and ropes high in the trees. Therefore, when my Mom came into my room one Saturday afternoon and asked I wanted to try some rope walking I did not even know how to reply first. I was scared and excited at the same time. My Mom said she would do it too, walk right behind my back, not because she thought I would panic but because she always wanted to try it together with me.
We had some tea with pancakes and took the same bus I usually took to go to school. When we came out of the bus it was such a pleasure to breathe fresh cool air coming from the river back in the park. I was wearing denim shorts and a beaded ethno-style tank, my mom put on her green cotton Capri pants and her favorite The Beatles T-shirt. Both of us were wearing white H&M sneakers of the same size 6 regular. We looked like sisters, my Mom was about 30 at the time, I suppose. As we were approaching the instructors cabin we were talking about something breezy but tasteful, about Hemingways cats, I think.
The park itself was old and big, consisting of huge oak-trees, maples and some dense bushes that I did not know the name for. There was the river and town beach in the very depth of it, far from the road. The rope adventure was not so easy to find from inside the park as the trees were so tall and densely planted that it was difficult to see anything in the distance. We even had to ask some passers-by the way. When we finally got there, it was already getting late and the sun was not burning hot anymore which was a good thing as my hands were already warm and sweaty from excitement. The instructor was a plump blonde girl even shorter than me although she was 24 or something like that. She showed us how to use the equipment while being on the route and asked us what level of challenge we wanted to take. There were three levels: the first was the easiest one, hanging very low and meant for small children; the second was much higher, longer and included more obstacles; the third was for real fans breathtakingly high and required being extremely fit and strong to cope with.
We chose the second level, and that was what the instructor expected. The instructor showed us where to start and gave us some useful hints. She also repeated her main instruction about opening and closing locks on our mountaineering equipment one of them should always stay closed for our safety. She said she would be around in case we had questions or needed help.
Then she left and our adventure started. The first challenge was walking on the hanging horizontal staircase with the steps very wide apart. When I stepped on the first one, the whole rope construction started to sway violently and I managed to stay on my feet only thanks to the equipment on my body. I grasped the rope rails and squeezed them as tightly as I could. My heart beat accelerated, I was breathing fast and heavy, my hands got even sweatier and there was only one thought left in my mind There is no way back! I had to continue walking even though some of the obstacles seemed impossible to overcome like crawling on two horizontally strung ropes wide apart from each other. I wished a fire brigade would come and take me down safely, but, of course, it did not. My Mom was walking right behind me. She saw how scared and exhausted I was and she tried to cheer me up with her jokes although I could see it was not easy for her too.
When we finally got down, I felt exhilarated. My whole body felt weightless and omnipotent, I wanted to sing and jump with excitement. We sang We are the champions with my Mom. It was a day to remember!
This happened in the summer when I was 13. I was experiencing a very difficult stage of becoming a teenager, being shy and extremely insecure. Some of my friends at school had already started going out with boys and this fact made me even more depressed. I was an ugly duckling back them skinny and awkward. I did not know how to talk to boys and sometimes even to girls too. I kept friendship only with one of my childhood friends, Helen. She had an elder brother whose friends would always hang out in their house because their parents were mostly on business trips all the time. In summer Helen had another female friend but me an older girl came to visit her grandmother living next to Helens house. This other girls name was Olga, she was of Russian origin. Tall and dark-haired, she had a sly unkind smile. I did not like her on the spot for some reason, partly because I was jealous of Helen and partly because I felt there was something not sincere about her.
One summer evening we arranged with Helen to go jogging in the town stadium. Helen wanted to lose some weight and I was willing to do anything but to stay in my room alone. Olga came along too. Later when we finished jogging, one of the friends of Helens brother joined us. Al the three of them were talking and I was happy I was surrounded by people, not the walls with a TV. They called the guy Chick, it was probably not his real name, I never found out. He was well-built with sharp and nice lips and bright eyes. He had the air of absolute self-confidence as most handsome guys do. I understand now that he and Olga were into each other but were at that stage when one needs company during dates. However, then, at the stadium all I could understand was the fact that I was having a magic time with interesting people on a warm summer night filled the smells of blooming fruit trees. When it was time to go home, Helen was the first to leave as she was tired. Chick and Olga offered to walk me home as my place was quite far from the stadium.
We were going past the old cemetery and talking about everything. I even managed to say a few words about the Seven Wonders of the World. When I said that, Olga looked at me somewhat strangely as if she was not aware that I was an intelligent human being, not just a piece of furniture.
The next evening we were supposed to go jogging again. I was excited and almost jumped with anticipation. Suddenly my phone rang. It was Olga. She said Helen asked her to tell me that they were going to jog without me. I put down the phone in some stupor. I was devastated; I could not even make myself get out of bed that evening.
In a few years when we got older I dared to talk about it with Helen. She was astonished and puzzled as she never asked Olga to call me. Olga is still her friend. Olga dated with Chick for two years and then they broke up. Once I got on the same train with Olga by chance and I had a chance to talk to her again. She behaved as if nothing had ever happened. She was friendly and respectful. She probably did not even remember. Helen is still my friend too although for a long time I was deeply hurt with what she supposedly had done and what appeared to be a purposeful misunderstanding that Olga set up. I wonder how such people as Olga have friends in the first place. She could be charming and nice when she wanted to make a good first impression but all that disappeared as soon as you got to know her better.
I do not know why this story stuck in my mind. Probably because that was one of the biggest trauma of my adolescence and it influenced the way I behaved in the high school when I became popular. Subconsciously I wanted revenge for what Olga had done to me and that could be the reason I would bully someone defiant but helpless in high school.
An Embarrassing Experience
I never was so ashamed in my life as the day I broke my primary teachers glasses. I was in the fourth grade back then and one of the brightest and most diligent schoolchildren in my group. My primary schoolteacher was a middle-aged rather short lady with strict eyes behind her shaded glasses. Her name was Ms. Lydia and she would always wear those horrible spinster tweed suits. She sometimes seemed unfair to less bright children but she respected me and always set me as an example for those who were not so capable in reading and memorizing material as I was.
I remember very well it was a lunch break and it was coming to a close so most children were still scampering about the classroom and making incredible amount of noise. I was not a very active child, so I spent the breaks at my desk revising something for the class or just reading a book. I was sitting at the desk right in front of the teachers table. I think I wanted to wipe the blackboard because Ms. Lidia would often get angry if it was dirty. I came up to the blackboard but saw that the sponge was not there. I looked around and saw it on Ms. Lydias table. The bell rang. I rushed back to the table to take the sponge. When I was reaching for it hastily, I hooked on to Ms. Lydias glasses with my sleeve and the next thing I saw was the glasses lying on the floor completely cracked. My heart sank and I was just standing there for several seconds bug-eyed and sweating buckets until I pulled myself together and quickly picked the glasses up and put them in the same spot where the lay before. I looked around furtively but no one seemed to notice what I had done. I sat back at my desk and my heart was standing still at the very thought about what was going to happen next. I was imagining myself burning in hell, my parents called out to school and all the school wallpaper titles shouting An excellent pupil turns out to be a shameless glasses breaker. I knew that Ms. Lydia would come in, see the cracked glassed and immediately understand it was me, red-faced and shaking all over. My guilt must have been so obvious that I thought I would not even have to confess.
When Ms. Lydia came in and saw what happened to her only pair of glasses, she did get mad. Just not to the extent I imagined it. She almost hit the roof. She was screaming and raging so hard that her saliva got in my face. When she roared furiously: Who did it? I just clung to my chair sides until my fingers whitened. I was repeating to myself that I should stand up and confess but my knees felt so weak and I seemed to be in a kind of speechless stupor. My body was sitting there but my mind got swept away with panic.
All of my classmates must have been frightened too. Nobody was saying anything; just one girl, Natalie, a notorious sneak, said that she saw me picking the glasses up. I thought my crime was revealed but it never even occurred to Ms. Lydia that I could have done something so disgusting. She just asked me if the glasses had already been broken when I picked them up. I could only mutter Yes and wished the earth would swallow me up.
For some reason Ms Lydia suspected Natalie, the only pupil who had something to say about the accident. Although Natalie denied touching the glasses at all, Ms. Lydia stuck to her suspicion. I never had the courage to confess, it seemed too late. I planned to buy a new pair of glasses for Ms. Lydia and just drop them off onto her table but soon understood that this would hardly be possible as I neither had enough pocket money nor knew the type of glasses the teacher needed.
I do not know why nobody suspected me of breaking them. It was so obvious especially after Natalie said she saw me picking the glasses up and I did not deny it. Probably it was because I had always been an excellent pupil both in studies and in discipline. It was coward and week-spirited on my part and the memory of this will always...
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