“OK so, with the certificate that’s going to be an extra thirty-dollars. Would you like to add insurance to that?” She pushed back her black-framed kitty glasses and looked up from her computer. Her Australian accent was so faint, it almost seemed residual.
“Yeah,” I said on an exhale, wondering what I would be doing if I had given myself a budget.
“Hey Brian, team one already went out for the day. Can you start registering the people that just finished their paperwork?” She said to the tall, pimpled man walking behind the counter. He was wearing a royal blue t-shirt with the company logo that matched her. She typed in my personal information before she looked up at me again. “I see here you haven’t purchased the video yet; want to add that to your tab?”
No freaking way. I had already paid over one-hundred bucks to have this experience. I wasn’t about to add an extra hundred for some Instagram likes.
“No worries, we keep it for up to a month after just in case you change your mind. Okay, you’re all set. Go ahead to the bins, put on a pair of pants, and Giant Man will help you with the harness. Have fun!
Alright next, please!”
The bins overflowed with blue track pants with a yellow stripe down the sides and grass stains on the ass. I grabbed a size medium (elastic) and shimmied them over my pants.
“G’day.” The giant man, whom I hoped was not my instructor, laid the harness on the floor. I stepped each foot into it and slide that bad boy right up. It made Giant Man think — this Shelia seems cool unlike the rest of these tourists, I bet she’s been in a harness before. And I had. The previous week I climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge with my sister. Not only did I slither into that harness with ease, but I also cracked a joke that made an employee laugh.
“Looks good, Sheila. I reckon you take off that shaaak tooth necklace, though.” I laid my betrothed shark tooth necklace next to my phone in a locker, sat down, and stared at the floor.
Meanwhile, Cat Glasses checked-in a couple from Japan on their honeymoon.
“Ok you guys registered for an 800-meter drop. From that height, you only get to fall four seconds before they pull the parachute. Falling is the most fun part, so I recommend to all our customers to jump from 4,000 meters. You can experience falling for a full minute.”
“Let’s keep the 800 meters,” the Japanese man said. I looked around at the rest of my group and decided that I was the coolest one. Team one returned giddy with huge smiles on their faces. One girl suggested they take a group photo. A final hoorah before they hand over their gear and part ways from each other, forever. An instructor for their team, another man in a royal-blue t-shirt took the photo for them. He was irrevocably sexy, even though he was kind of short. He had tanned skin, and long, curly brown hair. He was like a modern-day pirate. Instead of the sea, he chose the sky. He chose adventure, fun, and lame tourists strapping their helpless bodies to his. I prayed this pirate would be my instructor.
We gathered on a bench, tugging at our crotches to prevent the harness from cinching. Pirate put on the safety DVD. A montage of tourists, like us, skydiving with dubstep in the background. Animated arrows accentuated the tourist’s curved body position. This is the position we should aspire for.
“Be the bah-na-na,” the video said. What the fuck, I wondered. Does he mean banana? I couldn’t understand the subtitles because they were in Japanese.
“Awright, now let’s patnah up with yuh instruc’er.” Giant Man said. Men in royal blue t-shirts poured out of a mysterious door from behind the counter. Giant Man read off names and their respective instructors. I held my breath repeating the mantra, please be the sky pirate.
“Awright, Japanese Lady? Yeah with Pirate.” Pirate strutted to Japanese Lady and gave her a high five. Devastated.
“Awright, Caitlinshelia, yeah with Greg.” Greg waved his hand hello. He looked like a leatherback sea turtle with neck tattoos.
“I’m Greg, what’s yah name?”
“I’m Caitlin. Have you done this before?” I said, trying to get a laugh as Greg checked my gear.
“Yeah, just a couple tahhhmes.” We piled into the van and headed to the airport.
We walked on the tarmac of the same airport I landed the previous night. The same airport where when I landed, I had to stop and look around to make sure I didn’t somehow end up in Florida. A vending machine of Aboriginal decorated flip-flops assured me that I had not.
The airplane was blue with a yellow stripe down the side, matching my ass-stained pants. There was a maniac toothy smile painted on the nose of the airplane. It validated me feeling hardcore.
“How ya feeling, geewl?” From this point on, he referred to me as ‘girl.’ He forgot my name and now my life was in his hands.
Inside, the airplane looked like a big tin can with two benches running down the length of it. Greg and I were the first to load in, which meant we would be the last ones out.
“I’m going to strap you in, and then dorn’t worry ’bout scooching fuhwards, Ir’ll do that foh ya.” Greg said, straddling me from behind. I paid money, I expect to not have to do anything.
The tin can lifted off. I was admiring the estuary down below. I’ve never been to Florida, but I bet this is like Florida. A GoPro velcroed onto Greg’s left wrist buzzed around my head like a housefly. I’m not paying for that damn video.
“Seven-nine!” the pilot shouted to Greg.
“Seven-nine!” Greg echoed. Like a game of telephone, the message transmitted down the bench until it reached the end, at Pirate.
Pirate reached his hand to Japanese Lady, who was now strapped to him. She tried to hold it, but before she got a grip, he transitioned into a fist bump, followed by a shaka. The door opened – my eardrums feel like they were going to explode. They jumped out leaving nothing but a whoosh sound behind. It’s the same whoosh sound from ditching a cigarette while driving down the highway, only this whoosh was way more extreme. Physics, brah.
The rest of the instructors followed suit — a conga line of slap, bump, shakas as we ascended to the drop-off. And for a moment, the world seemed connected. We do the same slap, bump, shaka in jiu jitsu. It’s a sacred exchange of gnar. That feeling of universal connectedness dissolved like cotton candy as I became nauseous. The desire for me to not be in a tiny airplane grew. I wondered if there were alligators down below to keep myself from dry heaving.
“Three-nine!” the pilot shouted again.
“Three-nine!” The door opened up again and the plane started pooping people. I became more comfortable as the plane became less crowded. The oh shit I’m about to jump out of an airplane feeling didn’t sink in until the plane was empty. My instructor crab walked the two of us to the edge of the plane. As my legs dangled out of plane, and I pushed my head against his shoulder so I could listen closely for the countdown.
It takes twelve seconds to reach terminal velocity. It’s about the same amount of time it took for me to realize there wasn’t going to be a countdown, I was already falling.
My mouth flapped like a bulldog in the wind. It gave me cotton mouth and I was ready to be on the ground again, drinking my first cup of coffee for the day. Things take longer when your mouth is dry; like a stand-up comedy set or a blow job. Greg pulled the chute and my legs ragdolled from the force of drag. I felt like I was in one of those baby swings, where I was going for a ride, but I was not in control. Greg was moving behind me adjusting the straps. He let the parachute luff for a little and we picked up speed again. He adjusted the chute again and we began to float instead of fall. He was an artist and the parachute was his paintbrush.
“Pull the right, we tuuun right. Pull the left, we tuuun left.” He gave me the handles.
“There’s no turn signal?” He chuckled louder than he should have. Maybe he could tell that I was not going to give up with the jokes. He took the handles back from me. I looked down to see the other divers swirling down to the landing spot like water going down a drain.
“Do you like roller coasters?”
“Sure?” I thought he was making conversation, so I bluffed. He jerked the left handle down and we spun us like a dreidel until we returned back to earth. I slide on my ass for what seemed like half a kilometer before we stopped. I poped up, picked my wedgie and gave my instructor a high five.
“What was your favorite part?” He asked me while looking into the GoPro.
“Sliding on my butt.”
Everyone was buzzing on the van ride back. Parachutes littered the van and instructors passed around their phones like joints. Greg hands me his with the video of my jump already loaded. Ah, the last chance to make a sale. It’s not going to work on me.
Back at the office, I dumped the blue track pants and harness. I grabbed the key to my locker from the counter. I was glad to have feet on the ground and a shark tooth around my neck. But even though my phone was now in my pocket, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. It was my sister. It was only 9 AM and skydiving was the only thing I had planned for the day. I needed a distraction after a difficult goodbye.
“You’re the ornly one in the group who didn’t get the video,” the pimply guy said from behind the counter.