Obelisk

The other day, I tentatively brought up a certain subject with a friend, a subject that we’d tacitly agreed not to discuss. This was the friend to whom I routinely bare my soul, but even so, we had both been conscious of the undercurrent of thought for weeks without knowing of the other’s parallel musings. What that topic was is between my friend and me. All melodrama aside, though, there was a real possibility that it would adversely affect this friendship of mine. It didn’t. But as I lay in bed that evening, gazing through my skylight at the absence of stars and reliving, reanalyzing the conversation, it brought to mind another incident, one many moons before.

The afternoon was bright, bright and hot. Sunblock or no sunblock, I could feel the burn rising on my neck. It seemed almost unfair that the sky was so clear at midday, no wisp of cloud to provide a small patch of protective shade. In the grand scheme of things, however, I would put up with it. I was in Egypt, after all, ten years old and on my first trip to another continent.

My family and I had traipsed through the first ruin of the day, some sort of majestically crumbling temple or Ozymandian monument to a ruler long dead, and we were slowly making our way back to the exit. My sisters and mom, hoping to gain a respite from the heat, doggedly followed the river of stone that cut through the glistening dunes. I fell behind, despite my greater speed, because I refused to go straight. I was on an adventure, you see, so I ran and skipped and jumped in all directions, ignoring the disapproving glances of the prim old ladies who were proceeding in a more dignified manner. After all, my dad, a tall man with soft hands, the type of dad who looks like he should have a scratchy beard, was beaming.

I hopped onto a piece of a fallen obelisk, one of several half-submerged in sand next to the path, and from there, to another, delighting in the way the granite blocks cast deep shadows into the small gorges between them. My frolicking was soon cut short, however. To continue in the right direction, down towards my sisters, I needed to jump to another obelisk. But the space between the stones was no mere crevice. This would require not so much a jump as a leap.

I had no idea whether or not I could make it.

I stared into the man-made ravine and started to bite my lip. If I didn’t get across, I would fall like bread into a five-foot-deep toaster, possibly hitting the sides on my way down and probably breaking something. I’d seen someone break a leg before. Plus, I might not be able to climb out. If I did make it across, though, what triumph, what glory I would gain. Olivia Stovicek, explorer extraordinaire, takes on something they said couldn’t be done and succeeds. But the gap was so large.

I didn’t want to make a decision. I looked back to my dad, but he merely shrugged, as if to say, “Your choice, honey.” I peered down. I carefully told myself that if I did not attempt the leap, I would always wonder whether I could have made it. My dad fidgeted. My sisters shrunk even smaller in the distance. I turned away from the fissure and went back the way I had come. Why did I do that?

My dad told me, “I think you could have made it.”

Five and a half years later, I still remember. On further thought, I doubt that I would have successfully made the jump; I was not the most agile of children. My decision, therefore, was prudent. Yet I still turn this memory over and over in my mind like a well-worn pebble, almost a worry stone. And sometimes, as I stare at my skylight, I wonder why.

Olivia Stovicek
Age 16, Grade 11
Nightingale-Bamford Schol
Gold Key

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