You stand around the door locked with the small padlock. One of you has just said what a terrible idea it would be to kick it in. The door must be locked for a reason, one of you says, and the gatekeeper could return any minute, another says. He would notice the back door of the monastery wide open, and would slap himself for not locking it. He would come sprinting, or huffing depending on age and fitness, up the condemned staircases and would illuminate the third floor with a flashlight. And then he would hear one of you sneeze in the closet you shoved into. Your goose would be cooked, one of you says.
One of you says this, and then no one speaks. After no one speaks for some time, another of you says this will never happen and then puts her foot through the door waste high. You are surprised it was a girl, but watch as the lock rips out of the frame and lands on the floor and the door sweeps open to reveal a large cloud of dust. You proceed into the secret room filled with cobwebs and peeling wallpaper. As you look around you and kick the lock on the floor, you have become not simply trespassers, but damagers of property, bad, terrible people, the kind you never thought you would be. You see again how easy it is to cross those sorts of lines.
You turn up the staircase and enter the proverbial dusty attic. There you encounter the old rope and the ladder. You climb the ladder twenty feet up a pitch black enclosure, and when you press your hands against the soot covered trap door, it cracks open to paint a line of blinding white in your eyes. You are at the top of the bell tower. You continue up the ladder and out to the open air where one of you is already balancing off the edge of the tower and another is shooting photos. Enclosed in ten stone columns and gothic arches is the century old bell, dedicated in copper to such and such person, and to the right of you, all sides of you, is the seventy foot drop surrounded by slate enclaves and statues of saints. You get your bearings convince yourself that you must sneak up to the ledge to dangle your feet over death. One of you treats a supporting tower cable like a moneky bar, while another is busy carving his name into the bricks. One of you stares off into the distance to feel deep, and another sits on the ledge, feet curled in, to pray. In a moment of clarity you finally understand that you are in danger. You finally understand why rock climbers or BMX bikers or boxers say so little when they come back to reality, why they never feel the necessity of inserting opinions. You now understand why you are afraid of having your fingers pinched when you feed the ducks and why it is that you always check the lock on your car until it honks. And seeing all of this, you now know, even as a jeep rolls towards the monastery through the dirt road a mile away, that you must throw your full weight on the rope once you are down the ladder. That you will grip to it and grin, laughing sinisterly to yourself, perhaps a little quasimodo in your veins, wanting danger so badly, wanting a story worth telling but only bringing up when requested at dinner parties.
You do this once everyone is down the stairs and sprinting into the woods. You can see them through the window and now they are looking for you in the trees. You are not there. You are with the rope. You need the rope. You are the rope. You and the rope, you could say, are entangled in each other’s fibers for just a moment, as you, the bankrupt soul, feel the thrill of the pull while the ancient bell rings out for the first time in twenty years.
*Based on real events.