I don’t want to die. Not this way. I imagine falling from this dizzying height and crashing onto the rocks below. My heart skips a beat, my breath hitches. I back away from the ledge. My toe skitters on some loose rock and my heart jumps in my throat. My life flashed before my eyes in the seconds that I truly believed I had lost my grip on terra firma and was tumbling to my death. I fall on my butt and grip the earth with the heels of my palms, which are sweaty and now scraped and covered in dirt.
After many deep breaths, I stand up and walk away from the edge. I don’t look back or down because I will lose my nerve if I do. I need to gather my thoughts, feel the adrenaline. Why am I doing this?
I close my eyes and imagine success. I imagine jumping off the cliff and diving into the air like I would a crystal clear pool on a hot summer day. The refreshing water swaddles me. It doesn’t help.
I open my eyes and survey the horizon. The rising sun is behind me making the parachute strapped to my back feel like a burden in spite of its light weight. Sweat forms and drips down between my shoulder blades. It’s too warm to be chilled. I’m too nervous to calm down, but the view is amazing.
The canyon below positively glows in the sunlight. The rings of sediment on the exposed cliffs glisten in orange and gold. The deep blue sky sharply contrasts with the rusty landscape. Hot, dry air stings my throat.
I step toward the edge and look down again. The ragged rocks jut out from the vast canyon threatening to impale me should I fail. I swallow hard and my parched throat beckons for water. I pivot from the ledge and walk back to my car for one last swig. The water soothes my throat and tastes better than I remember. A lot better.
I reluctantly return to the launch pad. My stomach aches and gurgles in spite of the fresh water. I didn’t eat anything this morning because I was afraid it would come back up. It seems I’m afraid of many things. I talk to myself.
I can do this. Trust my preparation. I can do this.
I’m embarrassed by my lack of courage. I taunt myself for being scared hoping that this self-loathing will propel me over the edge of the cliff. It doesn’t work. At least not at first.
Finally, I close my eyes and clear my mind of all thoughts. I take one long, deep breath and suddenly I feel my feet rumbling beneath me pushing toward the edge of the cliff. I gain speed until I run out of ground and take one giant leap of faith.
The shock of leaving firm ground behind causes me to lose my breath. My mind swirls around thoughts of imminent death as the air rustles an alarm around me. I spin and twist in the space above the rocks. I become disoriented and panic at the thought of not being able to find my rip cord. My right hand desperately searches my body for the cord as I struggle for breath. The sun reflects on my goggles blinding me. I’m going to die.
I find the cord just where it should be. My hand had forgotten where to look. I stabilize myself using the air to buttress me so that I float more than fall. Seconds pass. For a moment, I think I’ve passed the point of pulling the cord, but I reassemble some coherent thoughts and realize I have a few seconds. 3-2-1…
I pull the cord and a whoosh of air grabs me and yanks me up as if I’ve reached the end of a bungee cord. The air goes remarkably silent in an instant. My head whips up as I settle into the harness like a comfy chair.
My breaths come easier and I can see more clearly. The sun is behind me again as I float down into the cavernous, winding canyon below. I sail past the rocks that intimated death. They don’t look so threatening now. A slight breeze cools my face, but sweat still trickles down my back. My hands tremble just a little. I probably couldn’t talk coherently if there was anyone to talk to right now. I don’t care. I just enjoy the ride down. I can’t believe I jumped.