The breakwall and the lighthouse...
We lived in Oswego, N.Y. which is a harbor for huge ships carrying cement, salt, and only God-knows-what-else. We even had our own old-fashioned lighthouse. I didn't know how unique this was until I travelled around a bit and noticed how precious few are really out there. Lighthouses are stately. They stand tall as guardians of the harbor, beacons of hope.
Ours was built at the end of the breakwall that kept the west-to-east waves from overwhelming the shore line. There were some storms that were so fierce that you could see the waves crashing into the breakwall around the lighthouse with explosions of white mist violently filling the sky. It was such a glorious display of raw natural power. And still the lighthouse would stand sure, amid the hostile conditions, it would stand.
I'll never forget the evening when one of my neighborhood friends initiated a "dare". This was common among young boys looking for adventure. "Truth or Dare", "I Dare You...I Double-Dare You!"...these where the dicey games we would play to keep life interesting.
My buddy floated a dare out there and waited for our response. "Let's climb over the fence and walk on the breakwall to the lighthouse." This would have been a no-brainer if there wasn't a tall fence with signs all over it saying things like, "No trespassing", "Intruders will be prosecuted" (I remember thinking that meant executed back then), "Violators will be fined x amount of money" and the like. I knew I didn't want to be a victim of capital punishment and I also knew I didn't have x amount of money largely due to the fact that I was an unemployed eight year old that spent every red cent of my allowance on baseball cards. I was a bit nervous to take the dare, needless to say.
But the peer pressure felt in a group of neighborhood 8 year old boys is second only to the pressure put on you as a terrorist being water-boarded at Guantanamo Bay. Suffice it say, it's unnerving, and as such, I caved in with fear and trepidation.
I remember looking at the signs on the fence, looking at my friends scaling the crisscrossed steel wires and saying to myself, "Here goes nothing." And with that, I swallowed the fear that was lodged in my throat, and hoisted myself over the barrier.
The breakwall was way bigger than it looked from the shore. It was constructed out of huge rectangular stones chiseled out of a stone quarry. They had to weigh several tons a piece and they were fit together like horizontal Tetris pieces. Put it this way, you could drive a bus out on this breakwall it was so wide. I don't know why, but I thought we would be walking on the equivalent of a balance beam. Not so.
This gave me a new confidence eliminating a couple facets of danger that were taking up space in my heart. That was, until I thought about the coast guard checking their spiffy surveillance cameras and seeing a bunch of punks bouncing across the breakwall like little rubber balls. This thought filled up the recently freed up space inside my heart and promptly caused my chest to pound with adrenaline. I won't lie, I kinda liked it. I was what you call an adrenaline junkie.
To make a long story short, we finally got to the lighthouse and stood their staring at it wondering what to do next. I was waiting for someone to utter a "double dare" that suggested we break into the lighthouse and burn it down with a lighter, but instead the most peculiar thing happened. The natural born leader who happened to be a couple years older than the rest of us abruptly said, "Let's go back." Everyone turned and backtracked from whence we came. And with that, the adventure ended as quickly as it had begun.
As we climbed back over the fence and returned to legal grounds, I felt sorta bad that we didn't go the distance with this "dare". I've always regretted our premature retreat wondering what it would have been like to break into the lighthouse, explore every hidden nook and cranny, then climb to the top to see the light that helps ships find their way home. What was I thinking?
I never braved the breakwall again...of this I'm deeply sorrowful.