One foot followed the other through the harness circle. I silently longed for a heart harness as mine pounded in my ears, threatening to burst through my chest. My trainer Bob, was middle-aged, tall and thick with wild hair and a dry sense of humor. He cracked a joke about something I didn’t hear, I laughed nervously anyway. My mind was wandering back to the mountain of papers I had just signed, acquitting the agency of blame for any “bodily harm or even death” that I might experience by throwing myself out of a flying vehicle and into nothingness. Reassuring.
Bob trotted out of the hanger and over to a tiny plane ranking about the size of a “mom van”. I trudged slowly behind, the dutiful yet unwilling child. We crawled through the sliding side door and Bob instructed me to sit on the cramped floor facing the back wall. He climbed in and slid behind me, the back of my harness to link to his front. Before the door slid shut we were wheeling precariously down the runway. A quick second and we were careening towards the clouds. I sat staring at the back wall where one undersized poster crookedly clung. I was mesmerized by the photo of a woman falling through blue sky, comical joker smile, arched back and feet thrown behind her. Instead of ground beneath her, there was a life sized yellow banana, followed by the words, “arch like a banana.” Yellow. The color of warning. I will never look at a banana the same again.
I sat up, stretching my back and craning my neck so that I could peer out of the small side window. The ground was rapidly growing fuzzy and all things on it tiny specks of color. No turning back. My breath came strained and heavy. I pulled out my inhaler and took two big puffs of courage. I mumbled under my breath in true New Yorker fashion. “Alright, you’re going to do this, and you’re not going to cry about it. Buck up.” I felt the internal switch flip and just as the door slid open and wild wind filled the space, a calm filled my mind.
Bob motioned and half dragged me by our attached harnesses towards the open door. We sat on the edge, feet side by side on the outer ledge, dangling on a decision. I obediently rested the back of my head on his bulky chest and he slowly leaned forward, forward, forward. We were hurling and tumbling, space no longer made sense as down and up meshed into one continuous flash. I opened my mouth to scream and all sound was mashed back into my throat by the 120mph hand of gravity. Within seconds, Bob moved us into the yellow banana position, arms stretched out like strange awkward birds. I have heard people liken skydiving as the closest thing we get to flying. No, I was fully aware that we had no feathers, and that we were most determinedly falling, not flying. Wind ripped at my face and filled my head via every orifice of my skull. Yellow banana, the color of warning. Yet exhilarating, as life and death passed through the same stratosphere of my awareness for the first time. I smiled the comical joker smile.
A mere 10 seconds and Bob pulled our lifeline. Our bodies slung back and before I realized what was happening, we were sitting on calm clouds. We were close enough to see the designs of the earth, a perfect stage to the twisting and turning of our complimentary sky dance. We continued to dance closer and closer to the expectant soil, until once again our dangling marionette feet were heavy, bound to earth and all of the reality on it.