Lisa gave a loose wave and smile as she descended the dusty red path, back to her car. Meandering back and forth through the wild grass, she disappeared into the trees below. I remained above on the cliff, watching the slow movements of the rushing river below. It’s always so interesting to me; the raging whitewater looks like an old faucet’s strained trickle from such a height. Whoever said pictures could be deceiving wasn’t totally right. The real world could be too.

I turned back to face where I knew I would see Lisa’s car emerge from the trees some distance away. There it went; one of those new Hybrid cars, the latest in technology. It, too, seemed sluggish from such a distance. I lost her as she entered the trees again. She was headed home, to that bustling metropolis on the horizon. Every time I stare at it, I feel more alienated. The density, the noise, the rush, the manufactured sense of importance; it’s all so distant, here on the cliff. I remember the story of a woman who died not too long ago in her loft apartment. She had been applying her mascara as she was listening to the television, and apparently heard an advertisement for another cosmetic brand. The ad was bashing the brand of makeup she was using at that moment, and made a veiled claim that the users of that brand were “unchosen.” She jammed the mascara brush she was holding into her eye multiple times and later died in the hospital. This was all related to the police by her husband, who was determined to have an obsessive compulsive disorder while undergoing “survivor” therapy.

I almost laugh everytime I think about that story. It’s all you can really do. It’s truly quite insane. That was the sort of world Lisa was headed to. I ask her every time she’s here with me to stay longer; I never succeed. I really can’t stand to be in the city anymore than I have to. I teach my classes, meet with students, bullshit through board conferences, then leave. I come here.

The sun is setting now, blazing the open landscape with it’s aural red glow. The river below is darker now, but the telltale white of water crashing and colliding with boulders is still visible. Visible, but not unmistakable. The entire view from here is deceiving. The river, the sun, the trees, even the city all appear serene and silent. No telephones, no monitors, no cameras, no exhaust, no paperwork. Only whatever and whomever I choose to bring with me. It’s the only escape I have. The city and its insanity, the sun and its inferno, the trees and its beasts, the river and its brutality…none of it seems real from here. I once tried to see all of these things as figments of my imagination, just manifestations in my head. It worked for the short amount of time I was here. Everything seemed to be irrelevant. I was outside of it all; I had everything worked out, it all fit together and had a purpose. It all made sense.

Of course on my way back to my flat I was brought back to the real world. I heard on the radio that a member of the City Council had murdered all of his colleagues and most of the guests present that evening during a meeting because he thought they were going to move to have him dismissed from the Council. He was actually being nominated to the Council Chair. I had been invited to that meeting.

I’ve come to value this place much more since then. It practically saved my life; had I not been so enchanted with this cliff, I would more than likely be dead. I almost feel as if I owe the vista my visits. Even had that incident not occurred, I would still feel thankful. Every time I come here I indulge in my deepest thoughts. Questions students raise, questions asked by my predecessors, questions asked by myself since childhood. It’s interesting too, since none of these questions ever get answered.

]Jean-Paul Sartre]’s vertigo analogy often comes to mind when I’m here. I was so frightened when I first found this place; being near the edge bothered me. I knew it was no different than standing on the edge of my stairs, but yet somehow it was. The choice, the ability to choose whether or not to jump, the mere presence of the option; it’s terrifying. I gradually got used to being here, and I stand directly on the edge of the cliff fearlessly now. My ability to choose has become my savior.

Perhaps that’s another reason I enjoy being here. I am in control. Everywhere else, someone or something has power over me; department heads, a wary drunken driver, the elements. But not here, no one is here but me. I am truly alone.

My tears have saturated my face and my fists have blasted a hole in the dirt in front of my knees. In my red fists I hold a shred of yellow fabric torn from a tiny flag placed near the path leading to my cliff. Upon arriving at the usual fence where I park at to walk here I noticed a change. The was a small sign near the road displaying a real estate firm’s trendy logo and a phone number, with a small “Sold” sign bolted to the top. I had never seen any “For Sale” signs, so the object was a mystery to me. I realized what was happening as I exited the woods.

The grass was destroyed. Slashed and murdered, lying across the clearing, erected in its place dozens of little yellow flags. I stood speechless, horrified, angered, and eradicated, all at once. I ran to the cliff, soon to discover the worst. There near the edge was a small wooden sign, with the name of a family on it. “Future home of the Wilsons!” it said.

I tore the wretched sign from the punctured earth and hurled it into the void below. I covered the injury with dirt again, and wept over it. My refuge, my sanctuary, had been desecrated by a family with no respect for what it was, for the beauty it contained, the value it possessed by remaining pure. I screamed as I ran across the destroyed grass, ripping every horrible flag from the ground, each time almost collapsing from the intensity of my anger. I ran to the cliff’s edge and hurled them across the yawn of the valley below.

Except this one. I’ve beaten, twisted, bitten, stomped it, so that it will never be used again. But it remains. I cannot destroy it. However twisted and distorted it becomes, it perseveres. With a last bellow I fling it over the edge as well.

How? Have these people no respect? No dignity? An anonymous family from nowhere has raped my refuge, and plans to build their “home” here in its ashes, to fill it with concrete, stone, metal and glass. It will become useless, polluted and abused. Just like the madness of the place I avoid. They can’t.

But they have. As I catch my breath I rise up and stand on the boundry of the cliff to look at the falling, blood red sun. I can’t choose to be there any longer. I don’t even have that choice anymore. I can’t.

No more. I only have one choice left to make. And that’s the one choice they can’t make for me. The one option that has always existed, that choice, able to be made only by me. It is the choice now. I can.

I do.

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