Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Confessions of an Amateur Freefaller

Is there some place where one can get paid to freefall, and hence make the title of this piece “Confessions of a professional freefaller”? I do it habitually, freefalling that is, or rather something like it, and each time, while I’m plunging to almost certain death, I wonder, ‘What am I doing?’ It always starts with the idea. I don’t wake up one morning and say, ‘ok, I know what I’ll do today. I’ll go pick up some groceries, and then sit and write a few random thoughts that seem interesting as they traipse through my mind and oh yes, freefall.” But the opportunity just keeps presenting itself, in the most unexpected and mundane of settings.

Let’s take the other day. I was sitting and sipping coffee at the local coffee-shop when I look up and see the perfect reason to go freefalling…again. He was 5’8”, hair as long as his broad shoulders, an earring in his right ear-lobe that looked like it would enjoy some serious attention, and ofcourse the ubiquitous tattoo. Yes, I’m a sucker for the wrong kind of freefall partner. By now I’m hoping you’ve realised that I’m talking about freefalling of the most fundamental kind – the kind that you don’t even have to step out of your house to do. And ofcourse, the kind that no matter how many times you check the elastic bonds around your ankles, there’s no guarantee that you would reach the bottom safely. Well ok, that would make it bungee jumping, but a thin elastic cord or a chute that probably won’t open, what’s the difference, right?

So, back to my latest freefalling/b-jumping adventure. All it took was a smile that promised the most exhilarating ride ever. I smiled back, and there we went, headlong into the huge chasm that miraculously opened up beneath our feet. Looking back, I always remember the highlights, the things we found together, the peculiar rock formations of the cliffs around us, the way our laughter sounded, so bright and free, how we moved as if finally free from invisible shackles, the excitement as we wondered if we would ever dare cut the elastic bonds that kept us somewhat tethered to safety as we plunged headlong into this glorious adventure… And oh, what a ride.

Even as we fell, hearts in our mouths, the head-rush was unmistakable. The colors around became brighter, all details that much sharper, every hue saturated to bursting point, fireworks in the sky..or was that the ground? Music in your head, body dancing to it’s personal rhythm, happiness flooding through every pore of your body, excited and scared witless as you wonder, “Is that the ground rushing up to meet me?” And then you smile, because you know that even if that’s the last time you smile, you’re thinking, “What a great way to go.”

Until he reached across, through all the excitement and the fear, grabbed my hand and said, ‘Don’t worry, I got you.” Do I believe him? I watched as my elastic bonds frayed and loosened, as if even they trusted the warm gravelly tones of his voice that spoke with such authority when he talked of trust. Even as I clung on, I wondered why his elastic bonds remained tight and steadfast, even as I knew that his bonds were strong enough only for one person. Would he lend them to me, would he let them go, or will I be the most disposable thing in his life? Even as these thoughts chased themselves around in my mind, I thought, ‘I’m going to love his smile forever.”

As I saw him being pulled back from me, by those very elastic bonds that couldn’t take my weight, I dusted myself off, and took a careful look at the scrapes on my body and bruises on my soul, taking inventory again of all that I lost and all I gained. A few more scars and a few more life lessons that one day I shall publish for people who will read and perhaps never understand. I sighed and started that long arduous walk up the cliff to get back to the top where, in hindsight, I enjoyed the view from the most. Expectedly, while I climed and tended to the blisters on my feet, I was afforded the perfect view of the next time my ex-free-falling partner smiled at someone else as stupid as me and cajoled her to trust his elastic bonds. Most days I just smile, trying to remember what it was that made me jump off anyway.

So after a week, month, year of free-falling and another week, month, year of climbing back to where I was, perhaps not exactly, and perhaps the same view doesn’t appeal as much as it used to, I walk back into the local coffee shop, settle down to an easy coffee and the day’s crossword. What is the eight-letter word for happiness? “Grounded”. Suddenly, I felt a slight tingle around my ankles, which seemed to already miss the clasp of the elastic bonds, and I looked around, curious. Across the room, I saw him – short cropped hair, pin-striped shirt and ofcourse the mischievous quirk of his eyebrow. I thought to myself, “Hmm, I’ve done my grocery shopping, and I’ve written today’s random thought. I wonder if he’d be interested in a spot of free-falling.” I smiled at him. He smiled back. Uh-oh.

1 comment:

DaViD said...

Lessons learnt from free-falling and yet we yearn to do it again...it just happens...and its not that we dont learn our lessons - we do. But then, hey, there's more to learn always :D

i liked this part the most:
"as I saw him being pulled back from me, by those very elastic bonds that couldn’t take my weight, I dusted myself off, and took a careful look at the scrapes on my body and bruises on my soul, taking inventory again of all that I lost and all I gained. A few more scars and a few more life lessons that one day"

Again, very well described and did you move from amateur to being a professional? i hope not...but sometimes, when you're atop the cliff, and there's a voice, a gesture a nudge that says "jump" - caution's thrown to the wind and here we go!