Ricky Ginsburg

Life is a waterfall. It begins with a trickle of long, meaningless calm as you float without feeling. Uterine blindness, your eyes sealed - buds not ready to blossom. You're barely sentient, too far upstream to form even the simplest of questions. Only the rhythmic lub-thump, lub-thump, a two-beat monotone you've taken as the pace of your life, provides soft evidence of your existence as you glide toward an unseen precipice.

Slowly, then urgently, then with great strain the raging current grabs you. Primal fear is released. Stretching spasms pull you away from familiarity toward, toward, toward what? You fall into a hard bright place - cold, sterile. Louder, more sounds, sudden movement... the first... breath.

You're weightless now, drifting with the updrafts of pressure on your back, your legs, your neck, as life falls around you. You've entered a universe of many and it pleases you. All is peaceful and serene. Touch embraces you. Soft, warm, pliable. You look at your hands and wonder what possible use they could have.

Every desire is fulfilled the moment you ask; especially if you ask as loud as you can. Noise. You can generate unlimited noise and you learn that it will bring you reward. Malodorous moments, unpleasant to your newly acquired sense of smell, are quickly replaced with more appealing fragrances. Hunger, an unwanted, yet persistent fear, doesn't last long and its relief comes with another recent addition - taste. Liquid nutrition in all its wonderful flavors is doled out on demand. Satisfaction chases the hunger, chases the fear. But you want more; addiction is a common genetic. Satisfaction is not permanent relief.

The updrafts become fewer and fewer with the passage of time. You're falling faster now and you're never alone except when you're sleeping. Everyone's grown, learned, earned and spent far too much more than they should have. Life transverses the barrier between pleasure and pain so many times a day that you begin to wish you'd never left the comfort of the womb. Father changes once, twice, three times; so often that you call him Bill or Jim or Dwayne and he calls you Shithead.

Fear stands atop the cliff, watching your descent, laughing. You spit, but the blustery wind of a million tons of life falling with you absorbs the stream without comment.

You adjust. You cope. You deal with it, man. Sometimes you forget there's a bottom rushing up to meet you. Life is good, great, never better. You're going down so fast that you start to think you're moving up. Look at the blue sky, so large above you that it could be the painted ceiling in your midtown loft, of which your bank owns ninety-five percent and you fear they're going to ask for more.

Borrow, steal, lie, cheat. Fear is laughing louder now. Its clammy voice dripping into your brain. The pace rattles your stomach worse than your first arrest for drunk driving. You threw up for days, eating nothing, not even when your parched throat begged you to take a sip of water.

You can't even feel yourself falling.

You accept that the war with gravity is not one you can win. Every day it tugs at you. A small child that begs for a toy you can't afford with the mortgage due and the alimony already three months in arrears. You drag the child out of the store, pulling him by the arm. Pulling him down with you.

As you get nearer to the bottom, you get heavier with every meal. You blame it on the weight of life bearing down on your shoulders. All that water, all that new life erupting over the edge of the cliff above you. Minute after hour, after day, after year, after too many drinks. Are there ever too many drinks?

Fear runs when you open the bottle. The smoky aroma of whiskey is repugnant to its senses, so it dips and hides when your glass is full. You can't see it when you drink because you always close your eyes when you swallow. How can you be falling if you can't see anything move past?

The child spends so little time with you now, that every third Saturday, when you pick him up, you end up lost just getting there. You're clever with the excuses though, always sucking a breath mint. Can't let her know. The bitch. The whore. The liar, even when you had pictures. But then, so did she.

You take him to the baseball game. The roar of the crowd, as loud as the roar of the water crashing into boulders at the bottom of the falls, scares him, and you leave at the end of the first inning. There's a tavern along the river, a place that makes great Italian food, and you take him there. The place is empty, so you and the boy take seats at the bar. He stands on a barstool, drinking cola with a straw. You have four shots and a beer before the kid says he's hungry.

Sleep overtakes the child long before the bartender cuts you off and helps you out the door. He buckles the kid into his seat and asks if you're really certain you can drive for what seems like the three-hundredth time. You lower the two rear windows before finding the right button for the one on your side to yell out at him, sure, I'm cool, man.

The third left is the bridge, or is it the docks? You're not sure, so you go an extra block before turning left. Worst case, it's a dead end.

It seems like a long street. Must be the ramp up onto the bridge, so you push a little harder on the accelerator. There's a glaze on the windshield, a fine mist from the damp night air. You reach for the wipers and as you look down, you miss the Dead End sign. Thirty-five, forty, fifty. Where's the damn wiper switch?

Your gaze drifts away from the road. Just a few seconds. Too many to see the flimsy wooden barricade. Too many to have enough time to step on the brakes.

You crash through. The rush of cold river water roars into the car, frothy white blood, reaching for you.

For your son.

Your first instinct is to kill the ignition, turn off the engine before it explodes. Your foot is still on the accelerator, so you force your leg away from it and try to take the car out of gear. Water has filled the car from the back with both of those windows open. You're now looking up at the waterfall pouring down.

Fear manages to push the mist of whiskey from your consciousness, and in an instant, you look over at the screaming child in the passenger seat in horror of what you've done. You reach for his seatbelt to release him, but your own holds you tightly in place. The water is dribbling into your mouth and has silenced the boy.

You find the release for your buckle on the first try; get his on the third. Dragging him across your lap, you push him out the window. You follow, smashing your forehead on the window frame as you go.

Yet, even in the murky water and the blur of your vision and the blanching pain across your face and a cold so numbing that you think you've fallen into melted snow, you're able to grab his arm and pull him with you to the surface.

It's hours later. She's with him at the morgue. You've been fingerprinted and photographed. One of the cops from Central Booking remembers you from last month and gets you some black coffee. You sit in a cell, crying, sobbing, shaking, and wishing you could have a drink because as bad as all this is, you're still falling.

The rest of Ricky's website.