“No way. I’m not doing it,” C. said looking down over the balcony rail. We were three floors up. My future traveling companion stepped away from the railing too. “Yeah. It’s not a good idea.”
The two of them were scared, and all three of us were drunk. I looked up at the stars and then down to the ground. I’d show them. I’d go on my own. “I’m doing it,” I said and swung a leg over the side.
A short while before we’d been talking about the curfew and the locked doors. The Peace Corps training director had decided that all volunteers should be back in the dorm by 11. She ordered the dorm staff to lock the front doors to prove she was serious and in control. It was the lock that ticked many of us off.
Here we were, ranging in age from 22 to 67, leaving our homes, our language, and our known comforts, and that woman was locking us in at 11. Even the volunteers who were 20 years older than she was, she talked to as if they were 12. Well, C., Mr. Future Traveling Companion, and I decided to prove our maturity by breaking out of the building. With male bluster and bravado the two of them headed to my room because it faced the back of the building. The balconies were on the back.
I followed because of course I had a crush on the Companion and because in the way that groups thrown together will divide themselves into cliques, I’d already thrown my lot in with them. In two months I would discover what mistakes both these reasons were, but in that moment, standing in the night air with the cool guys, I could do anything.
Now in this building, the third floor is what we would call the fourth. In the dark with plenty of wine and ego in my system, that didn’t seem far at all. I wanted to be braver than the boys. This has often been my undoing.
I sat on the rail, twisted around and let my legs dangle in the air. There were vines and drains on the side of this building that had seen no meaningful maintenance since before the ousting of the communists party–but they held. I got to the balcony below, and heard the guys curse. They were not going to be outdone by a girl. Pleased, I kept going down and the only time I nearly lost my grip was when I happen to discover that the director’s assistant’s curtains were open and she was making out with a volunteer.
Later when we wanted back in the building, we could but stare up its sides. Stumbling through the bushes, we found someone to let us in–the Peace Corps driver who seemed unconcerned that we were breaking curfew and that he was in his underwear. At least we were in.
I’m not big on rule breaking. I’ve read lots of books on writing and I try to remember all the rules–show; don’t tell–write what you know–don’t do this–don’t so-on-and-so-forth. Yes. Absolutely. Duly noted. If I were a great writer–say, Margaret Atwood–I could ignore the rules as I wished. But I’m me, and I’ve got to worry about breaking my neck. If I’m going to violate a few good rules, I’ve got to have a better motivation than impressing the cool boys. Tried that, and ended up splattered on the pavement in a different way.
What writers do you know break writing rules and land in one piece?