“Have you ever really danced on the edge?” he asked her.
“What? You’re crazy! I don’t dance and I don’t go anywhere near the edge or the top,” Peyton responded.
“Oh really?” he smirked at her.
“Really. Now, come down from there before you fall!” she screamed at him. Donni stood atop the brick wall that separated the bike path from the freezing-cold lake. The wall only stretched about twelve feet, so it really served no true purpose. It was just…there. It had always been there.
“Don’t be such a mom. Now, come up here, young lady!” Donni said in an authoritative voice that made her laugh. Donni and authority didn’t really match. You could tell just by looking at him. Today, he was clad in a pair of patched-up jeans, his favorite beat-up military boots, a red-and-black plaid shirt, and some kind of weird hat. The hat was black, had strings to tie under the wearer’s chin, and had a pom-pom at the top. He looked silly with that hat on, but then again, nothing about Donni was serious…ever.
Donni crouched down to pull her up.
“Donni, NO!” she screeched. She’d never tell him that she was afraid of heights. She’d known him for about two years. Everyone else knew that she was afraid of heights, but for some reason, Peyton could never tell Donni that. Her thoughts were always raddled when she spoke to him.
Donni let go of her hands. “You know, Peyton, I’m gonna have to find a girl that’ll dance with me,” he said as he stood up.
“That would be horrible,” Peyton mumbled to herself. He didn’t hear her, because, at that moment, Donni raised his hands above his head as if he were daring the sky to sink into him.
“I AM A GREEK GOD!” Donni let out, twirling, and jumping, and banging his fists against his chest.
From where Peyton was standing, he looked like just that. From the ground, he looked big and powerful and most of all beautiful, just like a Greek God.
He looked over his shoulder, down at Peyton. “Come and be a goddess with me, Peyton!” She shook her head “No”.
Donni threw his hat in the air and jumped down from the wall just in time to catch it. “You’re such a drag…”
She knew he didn’t mean it. That didn’t stop it from hurting.
“Come on. Let’s go find everyone else,” he said.
“No!” she let out.
Donni looked back at her quizzically. “Why? We’re not doing anything here. Plus, your equally-as-mature soul-mate might be back at the picnic,” he said sarcastically.
Donni was weird like that. When he wasn’t playing around, he was being sarcastic and hurtful. Peyton could tell she’d done something wrong, but she didn’t know what.
“Whatever, Donni. Just go,” she replied.
He rolled his eyes and walked away, stuffing his hat in his back pocket in the process. As soon as he was gone, Peyton kicked the wall out of anger.
“AH!” she screamed in pain. She hobbled on one foot and knocked her head against the same wall. “FUCK!” she screamed. An elderly couple taking a walk in the park exchanged glances. “WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?! GET OUT OF HERE!” she screamed at them. The old woman whispered something to her husband, but they didn’t walk any faster. Peyton chased them off, waving her arms like a lunatic. “GET!”
Peyton sighed. What was she doing? Chasing off old people and kicking walls? No wonder her generation had a bad name…
She looked up at the wall. If only she could climb to the top without wanting to vomit… Then, she could dance on the edge with Donni. That’s all he wanted. He just wanted a girl to dance on the edge with him. He spent most of his time on that wall. If Peyton could conquer her fears, maybe he’d love her.
The next day, Peyton came back. Her mission was clear—she was going to climb to the top.
First, she walked to the other side of the wall. Of course she knew what was on the other side, but seeing it was important—she had to know that she’d be okay if she fell. It wasn’t like she didn’t have on elbow-pads, knee-pads, and a helmet. She just didn’t like the idea of actually falling.
One the other side of the wall was about a foot of grass. Funny—she’d thought there was more…ground before that water…
She exhaled. “It’s for a good cause,” she reminded herself on the other side. Staring up at the wall, it looked like it almost touched the sky.
“It’s for a good cause…”
Peyton stood back, squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them again. As fast as she could, she charged towards the wall, jumped, and gripped the edge. The impact scared away the pigeon that had once been perched there, but it conveniently left behind a gift for her.
Disgusted, she let go, forgetting why she was holding on in the first place, and fell on her back. For a moment, she was afraid that if she moved, she’d feel the pain.
“Are you alright?” Donni asked as he walked up to and bent over her. “Peyton?”
“If I move, I might fall apart,” she answered. “So, I’m just choosing not to move right now.”
Donni laughed and laid down next to her. “So what, exactly, are you doing? You look dumb with that helmet on.”
“Nothing,” she answered.
“Okay… So how long are you planning to stay down here?” he asked.
“Just until my body feels pain.”
“I thought the whole point was for you to not feel pain.”
“No. The point is for me to know that if I move, my body won’t fall apart. If I start to feel pain while I’m in this position, at least I’ll know I’m okay,” she responded.
“So…does it hurt yet?”
More than you know, she wanted to answer. “Not yet,” she answered.
“Uh…huh… Okay, then,” he said as he got up. “Well…I hope it hurts soon, I guess… See you later!”
He left. As it always does, the pain showed up just as he was out of view. Peyton got back up and tried again.
The next day, she came back. The day before, she’d managed to get one leg atop the wall before falling. Today was the day she’d finally be able to get up there.
Peyton charged the wall, pulled her leg to the top, then her torso. Unfortunately, she made the mistake of looking down once she’d finally had the wall straddled.
“Oh, shit!” she exclaimed as she shut her eyes. Suddenly, she was sweating and shaking. (Shaking on top of a wall is never a good thing to do when you’re afraid of heights.) Her helmet and padding hadn’t prepared her for fear.
“It’s for a good cause… It’s for a good cause…” she said over and over to herself, but her eyes stayed shut.
“Hey, lady! Are you okay?” Peyton opened one eye to see a small boy with an ice-cream cone standing below her.
“Not r-r-really…” Peyton replied.
“DAD!” the boy called out as he walked away.
In two minutes’ time, the boy came back with his huge father.
“Need some help getting down?” the man asked in a chuckle-y manner that Peyton didn’t necessarily appreciate. Then again, beggars can’t be choosers…
That night, as Peyton laid in her bed, she considered giving up. She’d never be able to conquer that wall. She’d gotten to the top, but she’d let something as dumb as fear make her quit.
“Peyton! Phone for you!” her mother called up the steps.
Peyton picked up the phone in her room. “Wallace’s whore-house. Esmerelda speaking. How may we pleasure you today?” she answered.
“Yeah, I’d like two juicy thighs and a side of double-D’s,” Donni answered.
“Uh huh…uh huh…and would you like that with or without the whipped-cream?” she asked.
“You think that after all the times I’ve ordered from here… I want that with the whipped-cream and a strawberry, perhaps. Hold the chocolate sauce, though. I’m kind of trying to watch my weight…”
Peyton chuckled. “And how would you like this wrapped?”
“I’ve had leather…lingerie…costumes… Why don’t we just make it a birthday-suit this time?” Donni answered.
“Uh huh…and would you like the birthday special with that birthday suit?” Peyton asked, keeping up their game.
“Depends on what this birthday special is.”
“Oh, you know,” Peyton giggled.
Donni chuckled on the other end of the line. “You know, one of these days, you’re going to answer and it’s going to be a horny old guy.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. What’s up?” she asked. He never called her. She always had to call first.
“I was just wondering if you’ve seen my hat,” he said.
“You mean the one with the pom-pom on top? I saw it a few days ago, remember? You had it on when we were at the block picnic.”
“No, I mean I lost it.” How could she have been so stupid? Of course that’s what he meant when he asked. Why would he call just to see if he’d already shown her his new hat?
“So?” he asked.
“Have you seen it?” he asked.
“Oh. No,” she answered.
Donni turned on his stereo, but didn’t say goodnight. She wasn’t going to say it either. There were random moments when he’d start to sing and she’d smile, pretending he was singing to her instead of just singing.
“It’s for a good cause,” she mumbled to herself.
“What’d you say?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she answered. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Only crazy people talk to themselves,” he said. “Just saying…”
I’m crazy about you, she could have said.
“Goodnight, Peyton…” he said after almost two hours of not saying anything when they were both on the verge of falling asleep.
She was too tired to answer.
“Peyton?” he asked.
Instead, she imagined that, instead of him calling her name over the phone to wake her up and say goodnight, Donni was next to her, waking her up to tell her he loved her.
“Okay…” he said before hanging up.
Peyton knew she’d be right back at the wall in the morning.
Peyton kept her eyes shut as she straddled to wall—she didn’t want to get stuck up there again. Today, she’d forgotten her helmet and pads at home, but she was determined to at least sit on the wall.
She got to her knees.
“Okay. Don’t. Look. Down. As a matter of fact, it’s best to just not look at all,” Peyton told herself. “You’re…you still on the ground, Peyton. You’re just practicing on the ground.”
Peyton finally got her butt to touch the stone of the wall.
“Oh my gosh! I did it!” she cheered.
If she could sit, she could open her eyes—she did. It…wasn’t so bad. Actually, it was kind of…peaceful, to say the least. Maybe an eight-and-a-half-foot wall wasn’t that bad.
Peyton pulled her feet up, ready to stand.
Peyton couldn’t wait to show Donni what she could do. Of course, he wouldn’t know what an accomplishment it was for her, but she would. Plus, he didn’t have to know how hard it was for her to get up there. He just had to love her…
“Donni?” she said after he picked up the phone.
“I believe you’re mistaken. This is Michelle’s Gigolo Joint. Jose speaking,” he answered.
If only it really were easy. If only all she had to do for him to look at her how she wanted him to look at her—hold her the way she wanted him to hold her—say what she wanted to hear—was buy him. She’d save every dime. Hell, she’d steal from the homeless to buy him. Then, if she wanted more, she’d steal from a one-armed, blind musician. She’d steal all the money she needed and give it all to Michelle to buy him for night after night.
Peyton chuckled. “Very funny. Do you want to meet me at the park?”
“I can’t today. Tomorrow, maybe?” he asked.
Peyton hid her disappointment. She could always use the day for practice. After all, she’d only stood for about three minutes. She still couldn’t dance. She wanted to dance…
“See you then,” he said before hanging up. He didn’t even say goodbye… Peyton decided, instead, to stay in the house, caught in her daydreaming.
“Donni?” she asked into the phone.
“Once again, this is Jose!” he chuckled. “What’s up?”
“Are we still on for today?” she asked.
“We were supposed to go to the park today.”
“Oh… Sorry. I forgot and sort of made other plans…” he answered. “Tomorrow, for sure.”
“Tomorrow… Okay,” she said, unable to hide her disappointment. He didn’t seem to notice.
“Okay,” he said before hanging up. Once again, there was no goodbye.
“Donni?” Peyton asked into the phone the next day.
“He’s out right now. Can I take a message?” his younger brother answered.
“Okay. Have a nice day. Buh-bye!” he said before hanging up. At least this time she got a goodbye.
“Tomorrow,” Donni answered again the next day.
“What is up with you?” Peyton asked.
“You’re very nosy. I said tomorrow, okay? Tomorrow for sure,” he said before hanging up. This time, he didn’t even wait for her to say okay…
Peyton walked in the grass next to the bike lane. The sky above her threatened rain.
“Have you ever danced on the edge?” she heard Donni ask.
“There’s a first time for everything,” some girl responded.
Over by the wall, Peyton spotted Donni hoisting up a girl with long, dark hair. His new hat lay next to his feet. The scene was too intimate for her to watch. She felt as if she were going to vomit. She hid behind a big oak tree, but couldn’t help but watch them.
The first few raindrops began to fall, but Peyton couldn’t move. She was stunned. It was like she’d just watched herself die in a car-crash. It was like she looked into the lake and saw a duck staring back at her in replace of her reflection. It was like chocolate and whipped-cream on steak. It was just…wrong and shockingly sickening.
The girl was pretty. She was everything Peyton wasn’t. She even tried new things. “There’s a first time for everything,” she’d said.
After a while, the rain got to be too much for the girl, so Donni started to walk her home, forgetting his hat in the mix. After they were gone, Peyton went over to the wall and kicked it. This time, she didn’t scream. She walked across the path to the trashcan and threw up, cried, and threw up some more. She hardly felt the hands that were in her hair, holding it back.
It wasn’t until she ran out of food in her stomach to vomit that she looked at the person—Donni. He must have come back for his hat…
Peyton didn’t know what to do. She wanted to hit him. She knew she couldn’t. Instead, she ran. Surprisingly, he ran after her. She tried to get away, but he was too fast for her—too strong. He caught her before she even made it past the wall and entrapped her against it with his arms. Peyton swung at him with all her might.
“No. No. No. No. NO!” she screamed and sobbed. She stopped hitting him and sunk to the muddy ground.
“What do you want from me?!” she demanded as she leaned her head against his waist, sobbing. Peyton got to her feet. “I came here to try to practice getting to the top of that stupid wall, but instead, I see you blowing me off or some other girl!”
“I said tomorrow!” he pointed out.
Peyton ignored it. “I wanted to show you that I could stand on that stupid wall like I’ve been practicing all week even though I’m afraid of fucking heights!”
“You’re afraid of heights?” he asked.
“I fell so many stupid times and I even got stuck at the stupid top and some stupid little boy had to go call his gigantic dad to get me down!”
“If you’re afraid of heights, then why did you get up there anyways?”
“TO MAKE YOU LOVE ME!” she shouted.
“To make me…what?”
“Love me!” she said, stepping closer to him. She cupped his face with her hands. “Love me. I worked so hard. Please! Just LOVE ME!”
“That’s not how it works…” he answered, shifting his head.
“I love you. Please, just say it back! Please…?“ she cried. “Please…?”
“No stupid wall could make me love you…” he answered.
“So, do you love her?!”
“No,” he answered. “She’s just…not complicated…”
Peyton cried harder. “You’re such a… You’re so…”
“So what, Peyton? I’m so what? What am I to you, huh? What is this, because I’m not a regular friend,” he snapped. “I’m so what? What about you?! You’re so…UGH!”
“Ugh?” she asked.
Donni sighed and began to walk away. “Fuck it. I don’t need this.”
Peyton followed him, trying her best not to shiver in the cold rain. “What, Donni? You don’t need what?”
“This! Now…buzz off or something!” he said.
Peyton grabbed his arm. “Tell me, Donni!”
“Or what, Peyton?” Donni turned around. “Tell you or what? What could you possibly do? Hate me?”
“YES!” she screamed back at him.
“GO AHEAD! Make it easier for me to hate you or feel something other than…this!” He turned to face her.
There was a pause. Peyton stared at Donni as he put his hands over his eyes as if he were trying to hide from her.
“This…?” she asked.
“It’s…it’s like when I’m on the edge of that wall…” he answered.
“I don’t get it…” she answered.
“I’m afraid, Peyton, alright?!” he answered, dropping his hands from his eyes.
“Afraid of what?” she asked.
Donni walked over to the wall and climbed to the top. Once again, he looked like a Greek God. He might as well have been straight from mythology 101. It looked as though he were controlling the nasty weather.
“Well? Are you going to come up here or what?” he asked her.
Peyton looked up at the high, slippery wall.
“It’s worth it…” she told herself. Before she knew it, she’d reached the top.
Donni grabbed her hand and walked her over to the edge. The lake, which had once seemed so calming and peaceful, was now dark and angry-looking.
“When I’m up here, I’m constantly thinking about falling. Sometimes, it’s good. Sometimes, it makes me afraid,” he said. “It’s just like with you… I’m…afraid to love you. What if it goes wrong?”
“But it could go right…”
“Yeah, but what if it doesn’t? I mean… you’re so…complicated and different and frustrating and difficult! It’s like Russian roulette all the time with you! I just…never know,” he responded.
“What do you feel right now?” she asked.
“Afraid… I’m more afraid than I’ve ever been in my entire life!” he chuckled.
“Well, what do you want to do? Do you want to just pretend—”
“Oh, for God’s sake SHUT UP!” he laughed.
Donni kept laughing and, for some reason that she couldn’t explain, Peyton began to laugh with him.
“You’re so serious, Peyton! All of the time!” he giggled.
“And you’re…not. All of the time,” she said in reply. “Really, Donni, what do you want to do?”
“I want to jump! I want to fall!” he said. “Let’s do it, Peyton. Let’s fall!”
“What? Now?! Donni, this lake is freezing, and it’s raining! We could drown or—”
“Shut up, already!” he told her. “If you want to be with me, jump! If you want me to fall for you, fall with me!”
“Just do it!” he laughed.
Was he crazy? He really wanted her to jump into that freezing cold, angry water? How dangerous could you get? Peyton didn’t know. All she knew was she was crazy about him. She knew that she loved him. She knew that she’d do anything for him.
“Okay…” she said over the thunder.
“What?” he asked, playfully.
“Okay,” she said.
“Still can’t hear y—”
“I SAID OKAY!” Peyton said to him with a smile on her face.
Peyton laughed. “Yes, Jose?” she answered.
“I love you,” Donni said.
“I love you too.”
With that, they went over the edge, falling head-over-heels in love, never to resurface again.