The three locals (I really want to say ‘amigos,’ but I won’t) laughed as my breath caught in my throat.
Usually when I see something grandiose or amazing or am surprised in a good way by something, my eyes go really wide and I get an almost giddy look on my face, or so I’ve been told. I have a hard time keeping a poker face.
Common enough I suppose, but more often than not I’m pleasantly amused, not exaggerating. Inside it’s more of a consideration, an inhale to take in the scene, that sort of thing. Or so I tell myself.
In front of us was a sheer drop into an old river ravine, overgrown on both sides by thick, leafy plants and grass. Even with the evening light, I couldn’t see to the very bottom as we leaned over far as we dared. That was all beside the main feature of the place, which was an immense tree trunk, spanning what looked like an impossibly long stretch of the ravine, rubbed free of bark, and completely hollow, end to end. It looked pretty much like its namesake.
Now, like most people with selective vertigo I can climb up a mountain, go on a fair ride, walk along a high cliff, but as soon as I’m next to a sheer drop like the edge of a tall building, my insides drop out and most of my faculties recoil in terror.
Which led me to the inevitable: Okay, how do we do this?
Well, Roberto drawled, the kids around here like to see how fast they can run across the top, some stop in the middle and try to jump or dance and then come back. But that is for the children, no?
He motioned to Jorge with his head, smiling as he did so.
Jorge dropped his board, straightened his messy t-shirt, stepped back, then ran forward, squeezed into the wooden tube, and crawled at an impressive speed, his body a dark blot moving slowly down against the light of the tunnel.
No skateboarding (I said in English before the rest), too bad.
Just wait, Senor, said Roberto.
Sitting high above the craggy divide, Jorge stopped more or less halfway down the old trunk, and stuck some fingers up through an old knothole, signaling.
Roberto clapped me on the shoulder and clambered up on the thing. Looking at it, I had to wonder where in the hells it had come from, since nothing looked so big around here. Also, the amount of boredom or emergency it would take to put this crossing here.
Jogging haphazard (but always in control) and then stopping about halfway, Roberto looked back, made an ‘okay’ symbol with his hand. Then a small hand popped out of another, bigger hole near his feet.
The teen jumped, not high, but far enough, moving just a short ways farther down. Some fingers tried to nab the back of his sneaker as he went, then another hand jutted out, grabbing away. Roberto danced like that, staying in the middle as the younger boy tried to trip him up.
You do this too? I asked Santy.
Sometimes, he shrugged. Not for long. Not as long as Roberto, but even he can’t beat mi hermano.
On the log, it looked like Roberto might slip, but after a few more seconds, he dropped down, wrapped his legs around the bulk and tapped on the wood, drumming out a beat.
Well then stranger, he yelled. Can you handle it? Or do you want to make it a challenge.
I said we may as well make it worth it.