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Foreign fables

A grand canyon

USA | Monday, 12 May 2014 | Views [803] | Scholarship Entry

The canyon truly was grand, which was a relief because landmarks often fall short of their titles: The Great Sphinx is good, not quite great; Big Ben is large, not quite big - but the Grand Canyon, well, not only is it grand but it’s also a canyon; it delivers on both promises.

Its enormous basin of nothingness confuses the eye just as pondering the expanse of the universe does the mind, and this inability of our senses to comprehend is reassuring: it reminds us that things exist far greater than ourselves, in this case far more grand, and canyon-like.

Perhaps it was its grandeur that compelled my friend, Samo, to jump off it, or into it, or from it - I’m not sure of the correct preposition - if it were a building I’d say ‘from it’, if it were a hole I’d say ‘into it’, if it were a bridge I’d say ‘off it’. Regardless, samo jumped, and that is the important detail.

While he was the joker of the group he had a dark side and I suppose if you were going to end your life in this fashion, the Grand Canyon would be the place for it, or maybe a skydive, either one must be preferable to an overpass or high-rise car park.
Samo had picked a worthy place for both life and death and was with his friends right up until his leap, having together driven across the country in an overcrowded motorhome, myself included.

Thinking back, it was he who insisted on this destination. Given its proximity to Las Vegas, the rest of the boys would have gladly bypassed the canyon altogether and drawn the curtains through Hoover Dam if it meant an expedited audience with the Blackjack dealer. But we had made a rule that if one of us wanted to see something, the rest would oblige, and samo wanted to see the Grand Canyon.

He had made this known earlier in our trip as we stood on the viewing platform of the Empire State Building and he might’ve tried to jump from it had there been less security.
He mentioned it once more, during his shift behind the wheel as we hurtled along Route 66 at dusk, the falling sun turning the Oklahoma desert red like the surface of Mars. Falling suns, otherworldliness - God’s artwork that reads like omens upon reflection.

We were near him when he jumped, though too far away to grab hold. When he disappeared a few of us fell to the ground, our knees buckling as if to join him in his descent. Those left standing ran to the edge.

He hadn’t fallen far. Just below was a ledge where samo was crouching, grinning up at us.

He was the joker of the group.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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