Chicken | My Family Travels
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I barely heard my sister shouting over the rushing waterfall. My hands were quivering with adrenaline and my heart was beating like a drum as I peeked over the edge. Cautiously, I caught a glimpse of my sister in the dark water below. She was a speck of caramel amidst a watery backdrop and she was yelling something. Something about how the drop wasn’t so bad. That was somewhat of a relief. But that still meant it was bad, and something that’s bad is still no good at all. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea. 

My sister saw me backing away from the slippery edge. She yelled threateningly from the black water below.

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I can’t back out now, she said, especially after I made her jump off first. Coward, she called out. Chicken, she shrieked. I shouted back that I was fine with being a chicken as long as I didn’t have to jump. She caught her breath and tried to reason with me. I might never jump, I might never be back here again, she said. And those words stung me because this was the most beautiful place I had ever been. Not just in the scenery and the weather, but in the way that everyone existed. Everything was just so beautiful. 

Earlier that day, I had been sitting under a circus-like white tent along with what seemed like hundreds of guests at my half-sister’s cousin’s son’s birthday party. All across Hawaii and even the continental United States, the most distant of relatives were invited to Hana, Maui to celebrate baby Makoa’s first birthday. As I got my third piece of haupia cake, I asked my sister why first birthdays were such a huge deal in Hawaii. She told me, between spoonfuls, that in old Hawaii, most kids didn’t live past their first birthday, so surviving one year of life called for a huge celebration. After all, we could die any minute for no reason at all, so we might as well celebrate with tons of food and family. I nodded in agreement. 
Now, my sister projects from the depths, that she’s tired of waiting for me. I was tired of waiting, too. Without a thought toward hesitation, I took a running start and the ground disappeared from under my feet. On the way down, I heard the waterfall roaring and I felt my stomach dropping. Then I hit the water with my heart pounding. There was the purest of silences underwater. For a few long seconds, I completely lost my sense of orientation and floated in space. There was no way of knowing which way to swim. I stopped moving and let the water’s buoyant force push me up to the surface. Sound came screaming back to life as I wiped the water out of my eyes. 
I saw my sister sitting at the edge with her feet in the water, smiling. See? That wasn’t so bad, you’re still alive, she said. I knew she was right, I could feel my pulse in my ears and adrenaline in my veins. I was alive for the first time. The drop really wasn’t so bad, after all. 

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