(Continued from August 25, 2011.)
I look up: The badass to take me flying is heading toward us, with an already extended arm for a handshake. He is so much larger than me.
I make my move, grinning:
“I’m Vera!” I say.
I feel calm and yet impatient: I cannot wait to leap out into the sky.
“Sean,” he says. What a decent name, on a decent man!
Then, he adds: “And for the next hour, I’m going to be — your bodyguard.”
“I like that!” I say, still grinning. Apparently, for the next hour, I am going to speak only with exclamations.
Sean gives me his forearm. I grab it, and for the first time in the history of my womanhood — I actually mean it. I let him lead the way.
On the sidelines, I can see the other instructors readjusting the gear on their students. But mine is much cooler than that: He doesn’t fuss. He’s not even wearing his own gear yet. Instead, he starts talking to me, calmly, about today’s “exceptional” skies.
“You can see everything much clearer, from up there,” he says.
I assume it’s metaphor for something: A life of wisdom, of persevering past the suffering and finally landing into humility, which often takes the very place — of grace.
It must also be a metaphor for luck. And then I think it’s a good sign that in his name, there is an equal number of letters as in mine — and we share the same vowels.
We talk. Where did I come from? How did he land here?
“I used to be afraid of heights,” he tells me. “Until my family gave me a skydiving lesson, as a Christmas present.”
And this, I assume, must be a metaphor for something, as well: For human courage and the choice to defeat one’s limitations.
“THE SKY IS THE LIMIT,” says the sign behind Sean’s back in the alcove where we’ve walked off to pick up his equipment.
And this! This too — must be a metaphor. A good sign.
And I already know that I shall continue rewinding this day in my memory every time I want to land into my own humility.
The aircraft pulls up. It’s a tiny thing. It sounds rickety — and I LOVE that. Because it makes survival seem easy, nonchalant — not a thing to fuss over, or to fear.
Calmly, Sean goes over what’s about to happen. As he gives me instructions about my head and limb positioning when up on the air, he throws in a few metaphors:
“When we come to the edge, you kneel down on one knee, as if proposing to me. Rest your head on my shoulder. Wait for me to tap you like this; then bring your arms out at a ninety-degree angle — and enjoy the view!”
I imitate his movements. The thrill, the impatience, the anticipation makes me a terrible student though; because besides grinning, I don’t notice myself doing much else. But my bodyguard must know that already, because he continues with his metaphors.
“If you feel like you can’t breathe — scream!”
And this too! This too — must be a metaphor for something.
There are three other students besides me. Two of them start leading the way to the non-fussy aircraft, accompanied by their instructors who are still adjusting their gear, yanking on the belts, clicking the hinges. But mine is much cooler than that: He doesn’t fuss. Somehow, he’s managed to get geared up already and to check up on own my belts and hinges. And he has done his job with grace, without arousing any adrenaline in me.
I feel calm, yet impatient: I cannot wait to leap out into the sky — which must be the limit — and past my own limitations.
We are not even inside the plane yet, but already, I can hear the echos of Sean’s metaphors:
“When we come to the edge… kneel down as if proposing.”
“Rest your head… Wait.”
“If you can’t breath — scream!”
Inside the aircraft, the two students making the jump at 10,500 feet straddle the bench ahead of us. Their instructors start adjusting their belts again. The four of us sit behind them.
My bodyguard and I continue talking. Come to find out: He is a gypsy, just like me, traveling mostly in pursuit of conquering his fears. For eight years, he’s been leaping out into sky.
“You must be fearless!” I say.
“No,” Sean answers, calmly. “But this job — is a good metaphor for dealing with life.”
Underneath us, I can see the pretty geometric shapes of farmlands and fields that I have seen before out of the windows of other planes. Since a child, I had always wanted to leap out into the clouds, somehow knowing that there wouldn’t be anything to fear about that.
I turn to Sean: “How high are we?!”
I notice: I myself have started speaking in metaphors. Or, maybe, I have always done that. Which must be why I still find myself leaping out into the skies of my limitations — on my own. It must be hard to keep up.
“Six and a half,” my bodyguard answers and he shows me a watch-like device on this wrist with that number.
I grab it, meaning it, wanting to devour every bit of knowledge and skill that comes with leading a fearless life. Sean tells me that’s the exact height at which he’ll open our parachute.
I do the math. (My mind is clear, still unaffected by adrenaline.)
It means: We shall free fall for 7,000 feet.
My gratitude — floods in.
Calmly, I watch the other two couples leap out at their heights. There is something very incredible in the way they make their final choice to go, letting the skies sweep them off the edge.
AND I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS. IT’S HUMBLING.
We keep going up to our height.
“In what order do you wanna go?” Sean asks me, over my shoulder: Somehow, he’s managed to have done his job again, and I am now sitting strapped onto his body, at my hips and shoulders.
“Let’s go first!” I answer, still grinning.
And still: I am calm. And still: I am impatient to jump out into the sky.
Soon enough, we start sliding onto the edge. When I put my goggles on, I hear the echo of Sean’s metaphor: He must’ve told me that it would be the last gesture we do — before leaping out. He’s amazing.
The four of us shake, slap, squeeze each other hands. I can feel the heat rising up behind my goggles:
THIS! THIS HUMILITY AND GRACE — THIS VERY HUMANITY — IS WHAT LIFE MUST BE ABOUT!
Sean slides the door up.
“Come to the edge.”
I hear the echos. The heart — is on my tongue. I think: I’m screaming.
We get swept off.
When daydreaming about leaping out into the sky before, I used to think I would cry. I was wrong:
It’s all joy! All rapture! All gratitude!
Like a giant orgasm, for 7,000 feet!
And it tastes — just like the Ocean!
I am air-bound now, above California.
Above my life.