Monday, January 21, 2013

Over The Fence

Once, when I was about 14,  my mother had taken us out to dinner. This was not so unusual, and at the end of the evening she began to do something very usual -- that thing adults do, where they fall into a well-worn groove of endless circling futile conversation that tests the patience (and, frequently, the bladder) of even the quietest and most well-behaved children...which I was not. It was after dark, they were just wittering away at one another by their cars -- and the night, she was calling to me. Who was I to deny her?

Yeah, that looks promising
I decided to go for a stroll across the parking lot to where a large, weed-filled vacant field stretched off into the non-illuminated night, only to be limned in the distance by Stygian orange sodium lights outlining excitingly industrial architecture. This seemed like an excellent plan to me, as my mother was now lost to the ever-hardening amber of polite nothings. I'd only gone a few yards into the knee-high tasseled weeds when I heard a distant wailing, wheedling sort of cry in the night; like a champion decision-maker, I headed towards it. Because if there's pain, death and judgment being handed out somewhere nearby, you don't want to miss out on your turn, right? Of course right.

It came and went, and I changed directions several times, trying to figure out where the wails were coming from. They were coming, of course, from the monstrous facility on the other side of the field. This place, it had everything, man. Steam was hissing up into the black night, billowing orange under the sodium lights...there were excitingly chunky shapes rendered in concrete...plenty of valves and dials about the was positively ideal for an inadvisable night-time adventure.

Except for the fence.

It stretched to a towering height -- probably about 9 feet, an actual keeping-people-out height not hitherto seen before by this good little girl (ha!) who was more familiar with 4-foot playground fences -- and it stretched as far as I could see in either direction behind the scrubby hedge planted all along the border of this strange dystopian kingdom. I stood with my fingers curled through the diamond-shaped holes, so very like the fences at school, that when the cry came again from within the facility I began to climb almost automatically. Some sort of jungle-gym auto-response had me 7 feet in the air before I had begun to seriously consider my acrophobia. But a tragic pleading moan kept appealing to me from the steaming shadows beyond, and I kept climbing.

I reached the top, and the air was cooler there above the scrubby hedges. As I'd flung a leg over, my twisted posture pointed my face back across the field to the bright lights of the parking lot, now tiny twinkles in the distance -- I had a passing urge to just go back, and see if they'd even noticed my absence. But the cries came clearly again after a moment, and it seemed ridiculous to stop now.

Who's more trapped, here, really?
I'd flung one foot over, toes now tangled in the fencing from the far side, but I couldn't quite figure how to swing the rest of me over to join it without dying of heart failure -- I really am quite afraid of heights. Several pained and laborious strategies were attempted, and eventually I'd graduated to having both feet on the far side of the fence -- but oriented all wrong, with the toes facing out toward the facility, not in towards the fence I needed to climb down. My hands were braced painfully on the top of the fence underneath me, where the triangular zigzag pattern was leaving me no good options for supporting my weight. I swayed there, ponderously, painfully, and listen to the crying rising up into the night air. I was paralyzed by my view of the distant orange-lit ground, but was beckoned by the piteous sound of what I now was confident was a kitty whose voice was distorted by metal reverberation; visions of a tiny, worried furry face peering from within a trash barrel or air vent kept me there, facing my fear.

It went on for a subjective eternity; my arms burned, my knees sagged, and I came to rest upon my thighs on the horrible triangular top of the fence. Gravity continued to exact its horrible measure, and I could feel myself sliding, now upon my buttocks upon the fence-top, and rather feeling like wailing myself.

And here I was barefoot from climbing the fence
I'm not entirely sure how I got down from that position, but the exigencies of the situation brooked nothing less; I found myself within the facility grounds, and wandering amongst the strange and complex geometric shapes in the black and orange bi-chromatic night. Roaches skittered away from my footfalls, so large their bristly feet pattered audibly in the echoing canyons between the buildings.

I followed the wailing sound, quite loud now, to a loading dock. I stood at the edge of the artificial cliff, and looked down at what I'm sure you have already so sagely predicted; two cats, rutting and having a grand old time, sharing their feelings unabashedly with all who would listen.

My rescue was was not needed, had not in fact been requested. I'd never heard cats go on like that before; I live in the kind of neighborhood where all the cats have been fixed, because that's what responsible homeowners do. I was scratched, bleeding down the backs of my legs, dustily barefoot in what was most likely, from the smell of it, a water-reclamation facility; there was no adventure, and now, I'd have to climb back over that horrible fence.

I was suddenly disillusioned, weary, and my shoulders hung like millstones from my neck as I turned back the way I'd come.

I looked the place over, searching for a door; or barring that, an easier way back over. As I faced back towards the field I'd come across, I saw to my right a huge pile of loosely stacked building materials, the sort of thing you tend to find in large workyards of any description. My decision-making portion of the brain was still churning out doozies, so I scrambled cautiously up onto the heap. I was about a third of the way up the height of it when I heard the only thing that could make me feel younger, weaker and more afraid than I already was; my mother's frightened voice, calling for me.

My mother has traditionally expressed her relief at finding me after an unplanned separation by making me wish I'd never been born. For a moment I crouched on the rubble, weighing the pros and cons of life in a water treatment plant versus alerting my mother to my presence; but only for a moment, before calling out to her. I was ready to be grateful for whatever lecture/punishment combo she had planned -- scratches and pervert cats will do that to a girl.

I'm sure she was nearly expiring from maternal instincts as she had to wait on the far side of that fence, listening to me slither up this loose rubble sight unseen. She relieved it by exerting an incredible amount of pressure on my arm once I had climbed down the far side -- nothing will get you over a fence that before had held you terrified like your mom furiously expecting you to hurry up -- and she dragged me back to civilization like a very unsuccessfully escaped convict.

Bleeding scratches spared me from the dragon-wrath more than anything else -- nurturing is even more fun than punishing, in the Book of Moms -- and I winced every time I got them wet, for weeks...bear in mind I lived in a beach- and pool-rich environment, not to mention the regular bathing nonsense. Hot water was worse than salt or chlorine, but at least at home I didn't have to explain the terrible scratches. Rubber ducky expects nothing from me.

Yes, those are nipple tassels
I think my baseline compassion as a human being shrank a size that day, sort of a reverse-Grinching; I'm now much more prone to phrases like "Ah, it's probably nothing." And then I lock my door.

You ruined it for everybody, kitty. You and your kinky exhibitionist lifestyle.


  1. Your reasonings from past experiences never cease to entertain me. I love, and have missed, such stories. Well done.

    1. Miss your postings, my friend; and the chance to get into your head. It was really neat in there -- in both senses of the word!