Chad or JuJuan suggested it. I cringed. “It’s not far,” JuJu said, “20 minutes.” My heart beat faster. “Let me get changed,” I said.
I arrived on Guam in the summer of ’94, my first permanent assignment in the Air Force. 18 years old with a real job, I sucked in the soupy air determined to expand my horizons.
I put on some swim trunks and boonie stomping shoes. I met JuJu at his car and we took off.
We parked about a mile from the ocean, just outside of Yigo, and began our hike through the jungle. The air got thicker as the leaves got denser and I began sucking down the water from my backpack more nervous with each step. Harmless spiders the size of my hand strewed web after web across our path and hundreds of crabs with white spiral shells scurried at our feet.
“You’re going to love this!” JuJu said. The jungle gave way to knee-high grass with the ocean a couple hundred yards in front of us.
The grass became more sparse as we walked to the ocean. The ground became sharp, porous, gray coral. Chad half-supported, half-pushed me up a short climb. I developed a gnawing headache. “We’re almost there,” he said.
And we were. I peeked over the edge and saw the ocean at the bottom of the cliff I was standing on. The tide formed a pool below us. I yelped and stepped back, into Chad. He held me up and I remembered our treehouse.
In ’82, I climbed high for the best oranges and dangled from branches that held balls and kites. I laughed at heights and made it up to the second-to-last ladder step without looking down.
We built a treehouse almost six feet off the ground. I jumped from the treehouse to higher branches to swing and impress Jamie. And the day when my older brother Jeff wasn’t there, I took his spot in the treehouse, dangerous because there was no branch behind his spot.
I told Jamie, “I’m sitting in Jeff’s spot,” as I leaned back and toppled out.
I hated heights. My heart beat faster, the waves crashed below me. I joined the Air Force and chose Guam to show I was fearless. Chad was saying something behind me, probably mocking me. I held my breath, my head pounded. I looked down, a big wave was coming in. I closed my eyes…
Zach is still at his first bravery stage of life. He attacks the unknown with gusto. I’m not building him a treehouse.