The stomach falls. We fall in love. We fall apart, asleep, behind, off the wagon, in line, on deaf ears, back on. We fall prey to.
When I was six, I watched a man fall from a bridge. But really, I can’t say he only fell. He jumped. And then fell. There was a time where he was no longer running from his car toward the edge, but he also wasn’t on the hard cement below. He was in those moments between certainties.
As Yeats writes, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” Something in the center shakes, throws us off kilter and so, we fall.
The act of being in between is frightening. Not here, but not there. You are not standing, but you aren’t face down on the floor. You are somewhere in the intermediate. That moment when your foot catches a crack in the sidewalk or the stair and you lift from being somewhere to being nowhere in particular. There is no concrete beneath you. The future looks uncertain.
The man falling from the bridge had a soundtrack. I watched him fall as the radio in the car played “What the World Needs Now is Love.” That sweet love. Not the falling kind, but the solid kind.
The time between here and there can last milliseconds or years. When we fall in love, we are no longer singular, but not quite coupled. Really, such uncertainty can last forever. That is why we say “we fell in love.” It is in the past. We are no longer falling, we have found our footing and have left behind the stomach surge and sweaty palms of the between.
In 1972, a Serbian stewardess lived to tell of her fall from 33,000 feet. Of course, there were repercussions of her fall: broken skull, 3 smashed vertebrae, the month-long coma where she continued to fall back and forth between life and death. There are always repercussions. I do not mean this as a negative, but only that after a fall something is different. There is a shift. You were there, now you are here. You were one, now you are two. You were alive, now you are dead.
But I cannot stop from returning to love. The phrase “fall in love” has always bothered me. I want to be alone or anchored securely. Fall and fail are so close. And without my glasses, look the same on this page.
That man on the bridge wanted final certainty. He wanted relief from the falling. And so he fell.
Meghan McClure lives in Washington and graduated from the Rainier Writing Workshop, the MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University. She helps edit A River & Sound Review and her work has been published in Mid-American Review, LA Review, Water~Stone Review, Superstition Review, Bluestem, and Floating Bridge Review among others.