— EXCERPT —
STANDING ON THE JUMPING LEDGE is a spiritual experience. You feel the nip of the chilly air. You see the astounding clarity of the sky. You hear the whoosh of the wind as it blows around you. You understand how fragile your life is as you stand on the precipice. And you smell the fear emanating from your skin as you think, ‘F*****t, am I really going to do this? What the f***k was I thinking?’
Opposite me, Jesse was taking it all in stride. He was animatedly chatting with the bungee crew as they strapped us up in our safety harnesses. The crew was happily sharing tales about other jumpers: those who turn back, those who take ages before finally jumping, and those who leaped victoriously, jumping off into the breach without any qualms. Those were the ones they loved the most, probably because they made great promotional videos.
“You ready, Five?” Jesse asked me as the crew members finished strapping him in.
“I don’t think I ever will be,” I begged. “Can’t I just go back?”
“It’s non-refundable,” he replied.
“They can take my money,” I whimpered. “My life is worth so much more.”
“Okay, finished. Go to the gate.” The crew member who was strapping me in pointed towards a flimsy looking gate. Okay, it wasn’t really flimsy, but at this height, anything that wasn’t a solid wall looked flimsy.
Jesse pulled my hand. “Come on, you can do this. I’ll buy you ice cream later.” My knees felt wobbly but by some miracle, I did make it to the platform.
“Is this your first time to jump? Excited? Where are you from? Wave to the camera!” A crew member assigned to man the camera started chatting us up as the rest of the crew added more straps and lines to our harnesses. The most I could muster was a weak grin for the camera so Jesse did the talking for us.
From behind us, another crew member started giving us more instructions. “Stand closer to each other. Closer,” he insisted until we were side-by-side. “Slip your arm around each other’s back. You’ll need to jump together, like you’re just one unit.”
“What will happen if we don’t jump at the same time?” I asked, considering the possibility of staying behind when Jesse jumped.
The guy just shook his head. “Not advisable. You don’t want to know. Just jump okay?” His reaction did nothing to soothe my frazzled nerves.
A third guy opened the gate and pointed towards a small gangplank. My knees weakened even more. “You okay?” Jesse asked softly. “You can do this, Five. Come on, you’ll be laughing in everyone’s faces after this.” He tightened his hold on me then helped me on to the platform. It was something I was truly grateful for. At least I had someone to lean on.
“Look down and wave to the camera!” The crew member pointed to a camera at the bottom of the tower. Ulk. Wrong move. I quickly looked back up at the sky. “Now look there.” This time, the camera was to the side, taking a succession of still photos. “And the last one.” He pointed to another video camera, the one we were waving at earlier. Or at least the one we were supposed to wave at.
“Okay, now walk to the edge of the platform. Three-two-one, I want you guys to jump at the same time, okay? Ready?” I nodded weakly. There was no turning back. Time to conquer my fear, even if I was practically dying from it. Jesse gave me another squeeze, reminding me that I’m not alone. Somehow, that gave me the extra burst of courage to—
The next five seconds were the longest ever in my life. We were hurtling to the ground at breakneck speed. It was as if my body was falling while my heart was left up on the 61st floor. Despite my loud shriek (and Jesse’s equally loud man-shriek), I was so aware of the sound and feel of the wind as we sliced through it, my eyes watering as the air hit our faces. But even before I could get my bearings and register that we were falling, we had already rebounded upwards, confusing my insides even more. I didn’t know how long we were bouncing, nor how many times we rebounded, but by the time we were done, I was laughing hysterically. Sheer adrenaline was oozing out of every pore and I felt like I just owned the universe.
It was goddamned scary-amazing and I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for it. Because that jump? That was me screaming that I could do anything to the world.
Amidst my euphoria, I heard Jesse laugh. He clutched me closer during the fall; so close that I could feel his chest rumble with each laugh. He didn’t seem to have any plans of letting me go. Not that I minded. “So, how was that? I take it you’re not afraid of heights anymore?”
Still dangling how many feet off the ground without an ounce of fear left in me, I nodded my head vigorously. “Hell, yeah!”