As I walk across my second floor apartment I can’t help but notice soft spots under the hardwood floor. I experienced similar footing in previous places I lived that weren’t on the ground floor. Hollow, dead, weak spots that always managed to hold up. But in anxious moments I could imagine myself having eaten a slice of pie too much and the floor collapsing.
Perhaps the first floor would also be unreliable and I would continue to fall down into the ground through the center of the earth all the way to China. It’s an odd fear to have. There was that poor guy whose bedroom collapsed into a sinkhole a few months back, but it’s very rare you hear of floors collapsing. But I lived through such a rarity.
I was eleven years old away at summer camp. The camp was celebrating its 35th anniversary and it was not a very guarded secret that this would be the last year the camp was being held at the site. Developers were buying the property and so I guess the people who ran the camp did not believe in renovating or refurbishing the place. Our quarters were an old cabin with a series of bunk beds. There was a trapdoor to an attic, but we were warned never to go up there.
One afternoon a kid was laying on his top bunk and throwing a tennis ball up in the air and catching it. His final throw somehow trapped the ball in the attic. I’m unsure whether there was already a hole in the ceiling that the ball was thrown into or if the kid threw the ball too hard and made a hole in the ceiling. Regardless a ball was in the attic and I volunteered to get it. I climbed up the bunk directly underneath the hatch. There was enough space for me to stand, but I believe I crawled toward the yellow tennis ball on the other side.
I learned later that right after I ascended our counselor entered and the other kids were telepathically telling me not to do anything to alert him of my presence, but I lack telepathy. I dropped the ball down the hole and a moment later I dropped too. The attic floor was cardboard thin and couldn’t take my 11 year old body. I fell flat on my back ten feet on to the floor. The counselor looked at me. “What the fuck!” he said more scared than anything.
I looked up at the counselor and then up at the hole in the ceiling. It took me a second to stand. It was a miracle I fell where I did. I landed in pretty much the only empty space in the room. Much of the room was taken up by the bunk beds. If I fell on the mattress I probably would have been OK, but if I hit the side of the bed or one of the metal footlockers on the side of our beds, my posture today would be much different.
My elbows were scratched up with trace amounts of blood and the floor was covered with debris, but when I think back I’m amazed the experience didn’t scar me more than giving me a fear of unsteady flooring.