Bridges, trolls and that fear of falling

I have long held a fascination with trolls, those strange non-human creatures that live under bridges and come out when you least expect.

They come out either as you approach the bridge or demand you answer impossible questions before they will let you cross or else they sneak out when you’re half way across the bridge and threaten to toss you over the side.

IMG_0054 copyA Gargoyle, not a troll but almost as hideous.

I dislike bridges almost as much as I dislike trolls, especially those bridges that are held in suspension over deep rivers or gullies. Bridges that sway with your every step and even worse still, bridges whose slats do not run evenly together such that you can see between them to the swirling waters below.

I look between those cracks and can sense myself crashing to the bottom, engulfed in ice-cold waters even on the hottest of days, ready to drown.

We went to the Maroondah Dam when I was a child and walked up the hundreds of stone steps to the top where the dam wall plunged down into gardens below on one side and on the other side held back the force of tons of water from the dam itself.

I sat beside my sister on the stonewall overlooking the slide to the bottom, and imagined my shoes – slip on shoes, which in Australia we call thongs – and imagined my shoes falling to the bottom.

And somehow this forms my first memory when being high up left me fearful.

Since then it is nothing for me to feel the sick jelly like roiling in my gut whenever I go to the museums in Melbourne and last year in Edinburgh, where there are floors that jut out on high and look down to the floors below.

I steer away from these balconies and walk close to the walls. I avoid looking down for fear of falling.

Always that fear of falling.

Even when I am in a plane and the ground beneath my feet feels solid, I must stop my imagination from scraping away the floor at my feet, from scraping away the luggage hold, which I imagine to be one step below, from scraping away the thin layer of metal that protects the contents of the plane from the outside and imagine us without this casing, not floating in space, but ready to plummet down to the ground.