Thanks to the awesome people from RedBalloon, I jumped out an areoplane on Tuesday, at 14 000 feet, and free-fell for almost a minute, rushing through the air at a speed of 220 km’s an hour. Then I floated, strapped to tandem instructor, suspended by a thin weave of nylon against the buffering, rushing air, for almost six minutes.
|Tandem skydives with RedBalloon|
The free-fall was an uncomfortable, bursting spit of adrenaline; ears exploding with pressure, wind chafing and tearing against skin, the salt from the ocean below us stripping all the moisture from your pores. It seemed to go forever. You’ve been told that fall will only last for sixty seconds, just one minute of plummeting toward the surface of the earth. But my tandem instructor– the madman who does this for a living– tells me that if the chute fails to open, it’s just ninety seconds- a minute and a half- before we hit the ground. The last few seconds of free-fall– the roaring density of the air pressure as you tear through it making any verbal communication impossible– are excruciating, the discernible absence of a time keeping device allowing a deep, primal panic setting in. ‘This has taken too long, this has to have been more than a minute, and the chute has not opened, and we are going to die‘.
And then, of course, we don’t die– the instructor pulls the golf ball attached to the rip cord, and the roar is replaced with the most intense inertia. Your body is a rag doll, limbs flailing as you suddenly change direction from down to up, and it takes a moment for your velocity–addled mind to adjust.
As per my status quo when I’m caught up in that greasy mix of trailing adrenaline and sickening relief, I swear like a truck driver at the person who appears to be directly responsible for the overkill of chemical cocktails– the instructor I’m strapped to. While he laughs hysterically as if this is his favorite part of the profession. Which it probably is.
The float down is amazing, incredible… ecstasy. It’s the most incredible view I’ve ever seen, presented with the full tableaux of its surroundings. Sounds, scents, the movement of a populace below you… it’s intensely real. I’m sharply aware of feeling alive right now… just. It’s alarming what it takes to break through the numbness.
My instructor is gorgeous, tall and tanned with sun bleached hair. His American accent causes him to naturally pronounce my name ’Law–ree’. He walks up to me, shakes my hand and introduces himself. “My name’s Tony.” I stare at him for a second. Life, serendipity… these things rarely surprise me anymore. “Of course it is.” I answer bluntly, and the instructor looks at me oddly. As he should.
But Tony is good fun, thinks of himself as a comedian; and it all just adds to the feeling I’ve had since this sky dive was tentatively booked for December. This is a cleansing, something ritualistic. My husband is here with me… but something about floating down through the clouds, through a whole level of stratosphere… it’s leaving him there, too.
My Tony had been skydiving just a few months before we met, and desperately wanted to go again. I meant to, planned to, send him on another jump for a future birthday. One of those dozens I was positive he had left, we had left.
But I swore blind I’d never, ever go with him. F*ck that. Jumping out of a plane, not my style at all.
I’m a different person, now. I confused myself with how zen I was on Tuesday, strapped to a different Tony, climbing through the air in a tiny plane. Reality only really kicked when the roller door slid open and I took my eyes off it for just a few seconds… only to look back and discover that half the people who had been on plane were already gone, silently flinging themselves into the atmosphere below.
|A tiny tin can full of people.|
Halfway into our floating, heavenly descent– once I’ve stopped flinging obscenities into the wide blue sky sky around us– Tony hands me the loops attached to the parachute canopy and shows me how to steer. Pull one down toward your waist, bank left; tug at the other and you veer to the right. Pull both evenly down in front of you and suddenly you stop, a sense of quickly buffered, blunted air pressure caught in fabric above you. And, just for a moment, you are suspended in mid air, crystallized above the earth, a perfect sense of nothingness and nowhereness.
It was the most amazing, weightless, almost celestial feeling I’ve ever experienced. Forget trapeze– this is flying. It almost– almost– made that initial free-fall through the blistering cold worth it.
Minute after we’ve left the plane we’re cruising toward the drop zone, and theground rushes up to meet us alarmingly quickly. I use neglected core muscles to pull my legs upwards, lift my heels as high off the ground as possible in order to land safely. And I laugh, exuberant, almost ready to kiss the
ground I’m standing upon. Proud of myself, but in an oddly muted way I know all too well- aware that I’m using this experience to feel alive, rather than enhance the essence of living.
|The most amazing view|
But it’s something, and that’s better than nothing. In terms of a whole body experience that crackles with adrenaline and exhilaration, what they say is true– you really cannot get anything more intense than a skydive. Guaranteed, this is something you will remember until you are old and grey and surrounded by granbabies, should you be blessed enough to exist for that span of time.
The lovely Iznaya commented, via BookFace, “You just keep happening to life.”, and I take that as the highest possible compliment. It even feels that way, sometimes– as though I’m repeatedly smacking life in the face, again and again. Just when it expects me to go quietly.
Just when it expects me to lay down and rest.