I don’t know why I said yes to him that day. There was an endless array of answers I could have blurted. I could have told him no, or I couldn’t, or I wouldn’t, or I shouldn’t. I could have said I can’t, I won’t, not now, or maybe some other time. I could have told him many things, but I didn’t. I said yes and there is not a moment in my life since that I have not felt the consequences of that decision, and I am afraid that it might be more than I can bear. It happens a lot in life. People make quick decisions or sometimes they don’t even make decisions at all. Then they have to live forever with what they did. I can remember a time when I was a child as a perfect example of that.
My brother and I lived in a quaint farm town in northern New York. In the fall, the leaves would change and we would sit on the hill of our dad’s cow farm and watch as the yellow, orange, and brown hues would get mixed together as they were tossed about in the wind to form a sort of sun-drenched gold. Off in the distance, across the road, in the other field, ran a little stream that babbled quietly yet forcefully down the slope where, reaching the end of the field, it ran under the fence and vanished into the woods. In the springtime, when the water in the stream was nearing the brim, we would take our sticks with fishing line and sit on the rocks by the bank for hours on end, catching brook trout. We always thought we would catch a trophy, but all we ever got was something more like minnows, than anything else. It didn’t bother us because we didn’t have anything better to do.
In the summers, we would follow the stream about three miles into the woods where it flowed into a gorge nestled in the valley of two low mountains. There was a big rope swing some teenagers had put up that we would jump off until the summer sun began to set. I remember hanging on for dear life as I swing over the rocks and then letting go just as I came to the water and plummeting into the icy cold spring below. Surfacing, I would suck for air like a vacuum because the frigid water took all the breath right out of me. In the winter, at the same spot, we would take pick axes from my dad’s tool shed and tie knives to our boots to try climbing the ice that had formed on the rocks. It never worked, but that was what we did. It was a simple life with simple pleasures, disrupted by one stupid decision.
I remember it all too well. My eldest brother was sitting, crouching by the rope swing, and he and his friend were smoking cigarettes they found left there by some older kids. As they puffed away, their pride swelled with their lungs. They felt like big tough men and started to treat each other like they were as well. They started talking about whom was stronger. That shifted to whom was tougher, and finally they started talking about whom was braver. The latter of these was an argument that could be proven. An idea was proposed. My brother told his friend that, if he thought he was so brave, he should jump into the gorge from the top of the tree from where the rope swing was attached. His friend replied, “No way, I already know I’m brave. You should jump off it.”
“No, I know I’m brave so I don’t have to,” my brother said, thinking that he could reverse the reversal of his friend. However, his friend got the better of him when he said, “Whatever. I don’t really care. I know I am braver than you so let’s just drop it and talk about something else.”
“OK, then, go ahead. I haven’t got all day,” was the last remark my brother’s friend made before my brother headed, directly, to prove his manhood to his little friend of twelve.
He climbed and climbed the giant pine until he was directly over the top of the gorge. I remember thinking if he went any higher he would jump straight across the gorge and land right next to me. He insisted that he could go to the top, as he was egged on by the audience of one below. When he finally got to the top, I thought for sure there was no way he was going to jump. He stood there for about ten long, breathless, silent minutes until his friend shouted, “Hurry up! I got things to do here!”
My brother turned around so he was facing the other direction. He also knew that he couldn’t jump straight out because, as he climbed the slanted tree, he got further and further over the gorge. Now, even if he fell straight down, he would land in about three feet of water covering some boulders. He stood there, looking down into the blue translucent liquid—pure, perfect, and cool.
He jumped. Or, at least, he tried to jump. The branch on which his foot rested gave way with a snap, causing his right foot to do all the pushing. The broken branch made him veer to the left rather than straight ahead to the gorge. Looking back, it seems like he fell for hours. I can see him falling, kicking, waving his arms, and screaming. I can see his friend with his mouth wide open as his eyes followed my brother down, down, and down. And most of all I can see my brother sprawled out on the rock sideways, blood trickling down the cool shaded boulder and his left leg bent in half the wrong way so that it looked like he was kicking himself in the groin. And I remember the water, cool and blue and perfect, disrupted by the small stream of blood slowly flowing further and further down the stream, staining the memory of the gorge, forever.
Stupid decisions can reap a host of consequences. When I was confronted with this latest situation, I was shocked at why I couldn’t still see my brother on that rock. I am surprised that I can’t see the decision he made and all that it cost him and me. But for some reason, I didn’t.
It really started in the beginning of the day. Jordan and I were walking down the street, talking about all that had happened in our lives and how close we had become. I thought he was my best friend and I think he also believed he was mine. Eventually, we would both find out that we were wrong. But, at the time I felt like it was the truth, he would do anything for me and I would do anything for him. Maybe that’s why I said yes. I knew I should have said no. Given a second chance, I would have. If I had taken the time and not had my vision clouded by the false belief that he cared about me, I would have said no. I would have seen my brother on that rock. I would have seen all that his bad decisions had cost. I would have weighed out pros and cons and would have decided logically. But, I didn’t. So, when he looked at me and asked, “Katie, I think we’re ready to do it. You know I love you. Don’t you want to show that you love me?”
I said, “Yes.”
I said yes and I wish I never would have, because, now, I am sixteen and I have a kid.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ben Forsberg was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1981. At six, his family moved to New England where he spent his youth. Fifteen saw Ben move once again to Minneapolis, Minnesota where he has since made residence. In high school and college, Ben showed an interest in and aptitude for literature and creative writing, even publishing a few articles in student magazine and newspapers. However, as a trade, he grew up working for his dad doing natural stone masonry, which he naturally adopted. Ben has myriad experiences writing business documents and marketing materials, but aims to focus his time now on more artistic literature including short stories and poetry. His wife and three children as well as his diverse life experience will provide adequate muse from which to draw.