by Jamie Schler
I am terrified of heights. Put me on the top floor of a building looking down through glass panes or, worse yet, from the edge of a balcony, and my knees buckle as I grasp for a handhold. My heart pounds at the idea of funiculars or Ferris wheels and their anticipatory crawl up into the clouds. That glance down comes with the fear of knowing that when I finally reach the summit I will be staring into emptiness, a deep void, an near-endless drop only broken by the tiny ant-like beings down on safe, sturdy ground staring up at me, ogling, daring me to make the leap so they can break my fall.
Roller Coasters slowly, painfully inching their way up until a mere thread is holding me over a dizzying descent make my head spin as my breath comes out, barely, in short, quick gasps. Airplanes, those silver boxes offering me quick passage to my loved ones, have me in a panic when I think of the nothingness holding them up. My very pragmatic, scientific husband refers to this seemingly (or so he says) irrational fear of heights as Cosmic Vertigo, these images in my overactive imagination of climbing up and standing on the edge of a precipice only to be pushed off of solid ground and plunging into emptiness, the unknown. So I never climb onto a Ferris wheel, it is impossible to convince me to climb aboard a roller coaster; as we spin our way up the glass elevator in the Mole Antonelliana in Torino or wander around the top balcony of the Eiffel Tower my eyes stay firmly squeezed shut and I can’t even look through the eyepiece of a telescope, nor am I comfortable wearing 3-D glasses or watching the world spin on Google maps. Yes, I am terrified of heights.