Howe Caverns, 1973

The darkness in Howe Caverns is absolute. Darker still in memory. 1973. Five years old. In a small boat. Floating down a narrow channel. Between rocks. Under rock. Far underground. A tall man guides us through darkness. Tells tales of the cavern. Tales of darkness. The boat bumps against a thin chain strung from rock wall to rock wall. The ride is over. People climb up onto dry cavern rock. I stare ahead past the chain. Water flows into darkness and disappears into sound. It falls. 1973. Five years old. The sound of a fall into absolute darkness. The end. I know the chain cannot hold. We are all slipping into darkness. The fall I still can’t imagine. The mouth of a monster. And I scream at that unknown. My father lifts me out of the boat. Tells me it’s alright, I’m okay. 1973. He was thirty-five years old. The darkness of memory is absolute. Dad unfastened the chain. Drifted into that darkness. I stand on the dry rock. The sound of falling water whispers through the darkness in a language I still can’t understand. I’ve stop screaming now to listen.