I stand near the edge of the cliff my mother threw herself off a year ago. Near, because my legs are thrumming like a stuck accelerator, and I’m scared they’ll suddenly surge forward and I won’t be able to stop.
But I have to get closer.
I’ve found different routes to take my daughter to school, though the coastal road is the most direct. Avoiding the sea air, the cliff, everything. She’s too young to ask why we take the long way now. But I want to be able to talk to my daughter about the things my mother felt the need to hide.
Slowly, I inch toward the spot that’s unmarked and unremarkable except for the fact it is where my mother last stood. I don’t even lift my feet. I don’t want to lose contact with the ground, not even for a second.
Realistically, I know I’m not in danger of falling, but I can’t seem to convince my body to stop sounding alarm bells. I drop to my knees, then to the ground, as if having my whole body connected to the earth will keep me safe.
This illusion works well enough to get me to where I can stretch my hands out and touch the edge of the cliff. I drop my fingers down into space, searching for something to hang onto. Something to hold me tight to the ground while I pull myself forward enough to look down.
I have a sudden surge of vertigo. It’s so far to the bottom, the waves look like miniatures, the sound so distant, they could be in another world. Did my mother look before she leaped? She was always so scared of heights.
The sea swallowed my mother so quickly and completely, it took searchers a week to find her body. I both did and didn’t want to see her. In the end, there was no choice. We were told it was best to remember my mother as she was.
But who was my mother? I thought I knew. Now, I doubt and question everything. Except for one thing.
I am grounded. I think of my daughter at school, hand in the air, eager to answer all her teacher’s questions. I will never take my own life. Not if I stay away from the edge. I wonder if my mother ever felt the same way.