an institution of higher education that provides quality learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of its students and community

Honorable Mention - "His Wings Failed to Fly"

1995 Anne Horton Writing Award
Honorable Mention
"His Wings Failed to Fly"

Last Thursday morning I saw it, high and imperial above fog in the barren cornfields lining Mound Hill Road. On most mornings I pay no attention when I come to that corner, but that day I could not help but notice Adam's tower. I noticed it because fog made the day look and feel like night. The headlights of the car only feet behind me were barely visible in my rear view mirror and any object further than eight yards away was blurred in with the gray weather, but I saw the radio tower. Its lights shined above thick mist like stars in an early morning sky. I could see them blinking an off-beat to the song playing on my car radio. I counted the rhythmic flashes of electric light coming from Adam's tower and slowly released my foot from the gas pedal as the thoughts in my head fought the temptation to turn away from the sight of middle-aged men in Carharts getting out of a rusting blue pick-up truck and venturing near the white supply shack in front of the tower. I found that I hated those men. They acted as if nothing had ever happened there. Maybe they just did not know.

Normally, I would not be so offended by those men and the act of carrying on. Normally, Adam and his tower would only cross my mind at that location on the road for a brief slip of time. But the world was dark that morning. Under light blue skies I never visualize Adam's shadow jumping from the top of the radio tower. I do not hear the phone ringing or the terrible words coming from the voice at the other end of the line. Then, the tower is simply another landmark on the road I drive to school. I take it every day. Every morning and every afternoon I pass the tower without a second thought. The logic in me knows that the tower is the same place in any degree of light. But the fog confused my inner sense of time on Thursday morning. I was afraid of the cold steel pole wavering high in the clouds in the way that I am afraid of it at night when it seems to stab at the moon.

Night is when I think of Adam most; I do not drive Mound Hill Road when it is dark primarily for that reason. I would not go there at all for the first few months after his suicide, and I still will not willingly see the tower when the sky is black. My imagination is too cruel to allow my remaining emotionally secure while viewing it. But I saw it that morning, cold and protruding from the otherwise peaceful ground, conducting a ballet of cornstalks as they danced around the chain link fence that the unknowing men had erected, its lights shining down on the mid-fall frost. "Those lights must have shone on Adam," I thought. And then a swarm of the thoughts that create nightmares when I am alone late at night began flying through my mind. "Ghosts must be real, or he'll be gone forever." "I wonder how many of his bones broke?" "When he found him, did Adam's brother scream, I wonder?"

The coroner said Adam had screamed. So did I, when I heard the news. But I was not surprised. Adam had his own way of doing things, dramatic and unpredictable. I always knew he would fly one day, in a sense of the word, but I thought he had wings.

"He must have been afraid, then, if he screamed." "For the first time in his life, he must have been afraid." "If he was not scared, he would never have climbed the tower, or jumped, or left like he did." "He must have been terrified or he would never have terrified me the way the thought of him does when I am forced to drive by the place where his wings failed." These thoughts of "He must have. . ." surfaced in me when I saw Adam's tower in the fog. Then and often, they kept me from screaming again. But they do not stop the nightmares of Mound Hill Road and Adam's tower on the night when Adam jumped. They do not make reality fade at all.

It is sunlight that warms the truth at Adam's tower. "Adam was sick and selfish." "He took himself away from us." "Something broke his heart so he broke mine and those of all who loved him well, in turn." In the daylight I hate him. I miss him, but miss him discreetly. And then, I can be where his body once laid on a cold Autumn morning; I can be there without having to fight tears. But when the sun is shadowed or on the other side of the world I prefer to drive nowhere near Mound Hill Road. I do not want to be afraid, and I do not want to scream. I do not want to scare myself with terrible thoughts of ghosts rising up from the fog, thoughts of Adam and all his fears returning from the dead to fly again. I do not want to be afraid or powdered by debris from his broken wings, and I do not want to hate the men clad in Carharts who approach the tower with minds at ease. I never again want to think about what Adam taught me concerning the power of fear, and falling.

All I want is to tell him, from here, in the light, "Adam, I too want to fly. There are towers I too would like to climb. And Adam, I will do it. But I will never descend. I will never fall to my fears or darkness."