Jaime Gill | When You Are Young You Are Light

“To the top?”

“Yep. I could see the sea.” Above, branches sway in fretful autumn wind, ushering us.

“That’s awesome!”

“Ah, not really. When you’re young, you’re light. The branches hold your weight, it’s easy.”

I don’t say I was the only kid who dared go so high, that tree-climbing was the only way I impressed my friends. I don’t say fear can be exciting or describe the triumph roaring in my ears with the wind when I reached the top, seen by everyone below. Adults yelled get down, I pretended not to hear – a scornful king.

“Okay, let’s go to the lighthouse.”

Fifty metres on, I realise he’s not with me. Turning, I see orange Reeboks scrambling upwards.

I run.

“Danny, come back!”

“You’re right, it’s easy,” my invisible son shouts, swallowed by conspiring wood, leaf and shadow.

“That’s far enough!” The anxiety’s real, but so is my pride. He wants to be like me.

Shoes scuff bark, dislodged leaves fall.



“I’m stuck.”

I hate my disappointment.

“If you got up you can get down. Find the last branch.”

“It’s too far.”

“Lower yourself.”

“I can’t!” His voice wobbles.

“I’m coming.”

I heave myself up the first branch, wood creaking in protest, but still can’t see him. I climb higher, but gravity’s pulling hard and I’m afraid, not excited.

The next branch splinters then snaps.

I throw my arms around the tree’s trunk, feet thrashing for a foothold they finally find.


Looking at the broken branch, I realise I’ve not just destroyed my own way up but also Danny’s way down. Shaking, I scramble back to safe solid ground.

“You’ll have to climb down. Just til I can see you, then drop. I’ll catch you.”

I shift from foot to foot, already afraid I’ll fail.

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