Instances of Falling

By on Sep 13, 2011 in Cuttings

A man in Wichita, Kansas, fell from a 9-story apartment building. He fell over 90 feet, his body hurtling down at a rate of 9.81 miles per second.  

The papers said it was an accident. But none of them, not even the people standing on the street, noticed the man on the roof. They did not see him peering over the edge; they did not see the slouch of his shoulders or the lines around his eyes. They did not see him close his eyes and step forward; they did not notice that his eyes were closed the entire time. They saw something fall from the sky. They did not know it was a man.

An elderly woman from New Orleans fell down two flights of stairs and broke her arm. She was lucky it was nothing more. She had been trying to answer the door for her son, who had forgotten his keys. He stood on the doorstep shuffling his feet from side to side impatiently, while his mother lay half-conscious on the other side of the door.    

On Mount Everest, an American climber slipped and fell into a yawning chasm while trying to cross the infamous Khumbu Icefall. His brother was waiting for him on the other side of the crevasse. They would have been the first American brothers to summit Mount Everest together.  

There are more.  

A woman jumps out of a flying plane, a parachute trailing limply behind her. 

A man dives headfirst into the ocean, and his body arches as if posing for a photograph.  

Rollercoaster riders fall, again and again — plummeting down winding tracks, and there is the feeling of weightlessness and something else like panic, but it is an orchestrated fall and so not a real one after all…
Every two weeks, someone jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge. For them, there is perhaps a moment of indecision. There is a moment, like the calm before a storm, where the image of a white shuttered house with a smoking chimney appears, or the memory of something long forgotten, and they wonder if they could stop and begin again. There is that moment. And perhaps the water is like a siren’s call, singing of some nameless freedom and the recognition and understanding that will come, because who will notice that they didn’t jump?  

The moment passes. They fall, and from a distance their drop seems small and insignificant, and eerily beautiful. The drop is 220 feet.

For others, the fall is shorter.  

A young boy wakes from a dream he doesn’t remember, because he is falling off his bed and narrowly misses the tiny plastic soldiers lined up along his dresser. A girl slips and falls on the ice in the lake where the children skate, and her cheeks become blooming roses, but it is only from the cold.  

All falls have an accidental nature — like the girl on ice skates, like Mount Everest. When they begin, they do not unravel frame by frame. You can’t press pause in the middle.  

You cannot rewind. You cannot stop a fall. Even in dreams, falls have an interminable Alice-in-Wonderland quality. The only way to stop falling is to wake up, which is exactly what most of us will do. The ground rises like a phantom beneath you, but it is nothing. You cause a small earthquake on your bed when you wake, but it is nothing.  

In the dream, you are still falling.

Not all falls are bad. Falling in love comes to mind. Falling out of it. Emotional gravity does not follow the laws of physics.

A fall does not have to end. It does not always kill people; at least not immediately. Sometimes it leaves the body alone.  

Passion Contents


Jennifer Yu is a high-school math teacher and aspiring writer. She is pursuing her MFA in creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and is currently working on a collection of interconnected short stories. In between writing and teaching, Jennifer enjoys playing board games, having deep conversations, and being silly. You can visit her new blog at This is her first published piece.