“It won’t be long now,” the pilot shouted over the roar of the rattletrap plane’s single engine. His voice had a macabre cheerfulness direct at me and the three other fools who were dressed in heavy jumpsuits and harnessed tightly to one of the experienced jumpers. We were so tightly bound together that I wondered if he would want to share a smoke with me afterward or if he expected dinner out maybe.
The plane reeked of sweat from past and present as the whine of the engine increased and the plane nosed ever higher.
My God, I thought. What on earth inspired me to pay $150 to purchase three minutes of sheer terror–much less than three if the chute never opened. Three minutes of plummeting toward the earth at an ungodly speed. I mean, why not just jump off a cliff for free?
How did this ever make my bucket list? My heart was pounding, and I wondered if people ever actually died on the way down, heart just bursting from the full realization of one’s cowardice–a cowardice you knew darn well had been there your whole life and yet you waited nearly 70 years to confront it.
Confront it?? I’m not confronting anything. I just can’t bear the shame of backing out at this late moment. Death by embarrassment, like that day as a kid at the pool when I got to the edge of the high dive and stared and stared at the water so very far below and had to make my way back down the ladder past the eight kids who were already eagerly climbing up because I couldn’t bear the thought of taking the plunge that day.
The plane is level now, the pilot picking out the perfect spot for the leap of death. My partner can feel my tension through the harness apparently and pats me on the shoulder. “It’ll be a great ride, buddy, I promise.” Buddy, my ass, I think. It’s his job to push me out the door if I hesitate, even for a moment, to contemplate my imminent death.
It’s my turn now, and I’m feeling the brisk fall air as I make my way toward the exit. I’m struck by the cruel irony of having decided to do this during the fall as my partner and I leap into the abyss.
Note: The author has not yet completed his first parachute jump, but it is still on his bucket list and he is looking forward to accomplishing it in the fall of 2019–or not.