I suck at French. I can’t say or spell anything in French. Why do you bother putting letters in a word if most of them are silent, French speakers? Letters are supposed to be pronounced, no? Trompe-l’œil, c’est la vie, fin de siècle, noblesse oblige, coup d’état, après moi le déluge, force majeure, de rigueur, sang-froid, belle époque, au fait, goddamn denouement, etc. I know what those phrases mean, but when I try to say them, it comes out like someone super-glued my tongue to the roof of my mouth and I instantaneously sound like this:
This week’s Prompt For The Promptless is about L’appel du vide. It’s French and translates to “Call of the Void,” the unexplainable urge to jump when standing on the edge of a cliff, or tall height.
I’ve been there, figuratively and literally. I’ve felt that void calling more than I’d care to admit.
I’m not afraid of heights at all. My favorite hobby as a kid was climbing trees. And I mean really climbing trees, like fifty feet or more in the air. I liked to get all the way up and sway in the breeze. I fell a couple of times on the way down (the hardest part was climbing down), but it never scared me off. In fact, my job as a kid was to clean and repair the roof. My mom is deathly afraid of heights. She couldn’t even watch me be up there. She couldn’t stand to be in the house either since she’d hear my footsteps on the roof and panic. She had to leave the house altogether whenever I cleaned or repaired the roof. She called me fearless and I pretty much was.
It’s still my job to clean the roof whenever I go home to visit, but now, I’m a little more cautious than I used to be. I don’t quite go as close to the edge as I once did. I know what real pain feels like, plus, I don’t have health insurance.
When I was younger, I positively loved roller coasters. I still do, but the jostling gives me headaches these days. I’ve done free fall where you are falling to the ground very fast face down. The first time was amazing. There is a microsecond between jumping and free fall where gravity hasn’t quite kicked in yet and you are truly weightless. That is the best part. I did it again and it wasn’t nearly as good since I knew what to expect.
While you’re up there on the roof or at the very top of a tree or strapped into a harness about to jump, there is a moment when you experience the call of the void. It might manifest as fear or as a graphic vision of yourself splayed on concrete or even just curiosity, but it’s there all the same. You can’t help it. That is your brain warning you that what you are about to do is absolutely ridiculous and it does not approve, because your brain’s job is to keep you in one piece. It can’t very well do that at terminal velocity.
For the truly stubborn thrill-seekers, the call of the void is a last-ditch effort to smack us into sense. It’s your brain saying, “Fine, you want to defy generations of evolution by jumping out of an airplane farther from the ground than man was ever intended to be in the first place? OK, let’s do it then. Jump. See if I care,” hoping that reverse psychology will work.
My brain and I haven’t always gotten along. It tries to protect us, while I try to destroy us. My brain says, “Do not smoke all of this crack in front of you.” “Do not go 160 miles an hour on the freeway.” “Do not intentionally starve yourself, silly. Eat something.” The void says smoke, speed, starve. The void does not care about my well-being.
The void wants to be fed. It wants me to feel that ecstatic rush of real danger without harnesses and helmets, before I splat on the ground forevermore.
The void lives within all of us and makes itself known to some more than others. For some, they barely even notice it. It takes up quiet residence in the back of our minds and goes to sleep. For others, it is an active screaming, calling, pleading and yelling. It will only stop when we give into it. It will only stop when it wins. Some of us don’t have the power to ignore it, to defeat it, to put it away.
I’ve faced my void before. I’ve stood at the edge of my personal abyss and listened to my void that I named Eeyore. He wanted me to crawl inside the darkness with him. The longer you stay in, the harder it is to get out, until Eeyore swallows you altogether. I got out.
I’ve faced the void in one way or another. I’ve seen it. I’ve listened to it. I’ve tried to ignore it and I’ve succumbed to it. I have spent a lot of time inside the blackness, but I crawled back out. I’m still here.
The void lies. It is selfish. It doesn’t care about you. It wants you all to itself. No matter what you do, don’t listen to the void. Climb back out and throw a damn pipe bomb inside of it if you have to.