So we were at a friend’s wedding.
Fine, it was technically the night before the wedding, and we were at a hotel. Details.
I don’t know what your friends are like, but mine are generally drunkards. I imagine most people have very dignified ways of going about socializing. I imagine most people sitting up very straight while drinking tea, the corners of their mouths curling demurely around their cups as they exchange warmhearted pleasantries with dear pals, laughter as gentle as the tinkling of a spoon in a saucer. Then it’s to bed by 8:30 p.m. sharp because goodness, one needs one’s rest. Doesn’t one?
My friends, though, my friends more resemble human bumper cars. Colliding in great bear hugs, lumbering and staggering around, shouting to be heard over the others, making toasts, taking shots, shattering glass, demonstrating feats of strength and/or prowess, dragging wakefulness by the hair into the very wee hours.
So I was sitting in a hotel room by the sea with a bunch of drunkards, because that’s what we do when one of us in the group marries. We all gather the night before to drink and
talk shout and bounce off the walls.
After a time, though, I grew weary of the noise. I slipped out onto the balcony and pulled the sliding glass door shut behind me. No one will probably even notice I’m out here, I thought, and allowed a few indulgent waves of self-pity to wash over me. Because deep down I still halfway expect all conversation to grind to an awkward halt in my absence, leading my friends to seek me out and — upon finding me — lift me to their shoulders amid a chorus of celebratory cries and jubilantly parade me back to my rightful place as the Life of the Party.
I crossed my arms over the balcony railing and rested my chin on top of them, staring absently down at the patio below. I was prepared to wallow in melancholy for at least several minutes, but the wallowing was quickly displaced by a growing revelation:
It would be ridiculously easy to climb from one floor of the hotel to the other.
Now, in order for this story to make any sense I need to stop and explain something. This hotel by the sea was built into the side of a hill. The level I was on was technically considered the ground floor — you could walk in from the lobby and straight back to the guest rooms. But because it was built into the the side of a hill, by the time you got there you discovered — surprise! — that an additional story of guest rooms had opened up beneath.
The room the party was in was situated in a corner of the hotel facing the hillside, away from the sea. The balcony overlooked a sunken garden of sorts on the level below; three patios separated by railings and just a strip of concrete between the railings and the retaining wall holding up the hill.
Did that make any sense? I know you didn’t read that last part. You just scanned it quickly because you are trying to read blogs at work without your boss finding out. Your brain condensed the last two paragraphs into a jumble of “SEA HILL SUNKEN STRIP RETAINING BLUH,” didn’t it?
Good. I’m glad we’re on the same page.
So there I was. Staring down at the railing directly below mine. It would be so easy. So easy. I could be on the ground in a flash. I could just drop right down. Boop. Easy as eating pie. Except I didn’t need to use a fork. Or actually eat anything at all, really.
I called an internal meeting with myself that quickly devolved into yelling. One side was like THIS IS THE STUPIDEST IDEA EVER WHAT IF YOU FALL and the other was all WHAT IS LIFE WITHOUT RISK?
And I said to myself, yeah. YEAH. What IS life without risk?
Before the cautious side of me could erupt in protestations again I tipped my head back, drained the last of what was in my red cup, and set it on the balcony beside me. Sans pockets, I shoved my room key card into my bra for safekeeping. I grabbed hold of the railing with both hands and threw my legs over. Then I crouched and dropped the lower half of my body, dangling my feet until they touched the bottom railing. I released my hands and balanced there for a moment, then deftly jumped to the ground with a satisfying thud.
I hoisted my hands on my hips and gazed up at the balcony from whence I had come, grinning like a feral idiot. I’d done it! I’d done it like a champion! I was a champion! A boss! I was the boss of railings! They should give me a Ph.D. in railing bossery!
I wanted to tell someone; I wanted to shout my accomplishment to the stars. Look! Look what I had done! BE IMPRESSED OR SUFFER MY WRATH!!!!
Well, that was fun.
Now how did I get back to the party?
I looked around. The room I had dropped down in front of was dark and shut tight. The curtains and patio door of the next room — I noted with some alarm — were thrown open to the night air, and light from the television flickered across the walls. The very last room, it turned out, was not a guest room at all, but the hotel fitness center — I could just make out the hulking shape of an elliptical machine through the glass.
Hmm. Around the corner of the building I went to investigate further, but I was immediately stopped in my tracks by a dead end. All that was there was an open-air stairwell I couldn’t access from the ground. The entire corner was surrounded by a high wall. I was standing there staring dumbly at the scene when a hotel employee suddenly appeared on a landing of the stairs.
“You can’t get out this way, Miss,” he said to me. “You’ll have to go out through your room.”
Right. My room.
Up there somewhere, on another floor.
“Thank you!” I called after him cheerfully, choking a little on my own spit.
Okay. Maybe I could try the fitness center? Cautiously, quietly, I darted across the patio, trying not to draw the attention of the person in the middle room. I jumped the railing in front of the fitness center door and tugged on the handle with all my might; it wouldn’t budge. I dug my key card out of my bra and swiped it in the reader on the wall. The lights blinked red over and over again. Shit.
As I gazed around the patio in desperation, my eye fell on the retaining wall. It was a little high for me to scale on my own, but there was a pipe running along the bottom of the wall about a foot from the ground. If I used that pipe as leverage, I figured I could scramble up to the top, then scamper up the hillside and come back inside the hotel from the lobby.
I came at the wall at a run for momentum. On final approach I leapt, I bounded, I sailed off my back leg. And when my foot made contact with the pipe, the pipe… gave way. Its moorings were corroded and loose, and the whole length of tube snapped back at me like a rubber band.
In an instant — no, a fraction of an instant — I was back in the farthest, darkest corner next to the fitness center, heart pounding in my ears. Holyshit. Whomever was in the middle room had to have heard that. And if they were anything like me, they would be coming out to investigate.
I stood pressed against the brick for one full minute, watching light and shadows play on the wall of the middle room. Yet no one stirred.
I had only one escape option left. I skittered across the patio once more and leaned around the corner of the building. No one appeared to be on the stairs this time, so I approached warily. The lowest landing was well above my head, but if I jumped I could grab hold of the bottom part of the rail. By flailing my legs madly I was able to gain enough traction to inch my way up. It was… not graceful process. Panting, I made it to the ledge, where I at last heaved one leg over the railing, then the other.
I was on the stairs.
I had made it. I was out.
No time for celebrations, and no urge to return to the party. I dashed up the steps and down the hall back to my room. Fishing the key card out of my shirt one last time, I felt a spark of elation when the light flashed green. I closed the door with a quiet click behind me, then collapsed against it.
They didn’t catch me. I’d gotten away with it.
When the beau came back from the party ten minutes later, I was already in my pajamas. “Here you are,” he said. “I didn’t see you leave. What have you been up to?”
“Oh,” I said. “Not much.”
Epilogue: here is where I should say something wise about learning lessons, but I don’t think I learned any. Doing stuff based on self-dares can never go wrong. Overall, an A+ experience. Should travel to weddings more often.
Keep your friends close and your railings closer.
P.S. I made a graphic to go with this post because, surprisingly, I didn’t happen to have any photographs on hand of me clambering over a rail. Not that I would have used one anyway if I did, because I probably would have been making the ugliest concentration face ever in it and my ego won’t let me share those kinds of things. Anyway, the point is that I think I’ll do stuff like this in the future, when I can, if that’s okay? Is that okay with you? Does it seem kinda weird to you? Is it too weird?