July 25, 2011

One hundred and fifty feet. One hundred and fifty gallons. One hundred and fifty years. One hundred and fifty kisses. One hundred and fifty pages. One hundred and fifty reasons.

But when you’re about to jump, the only thing you know to be true is that systems of measure will always fail you in a moment of fear. Numbers always lie. Why? Because when you’re in freefall for a full blink of an eye, you recognize it’s never about the miles apart or the years between or the aggregate cost.

It’s about flavors of ice cream. And the time you punched a guy in the face. It’s about spilling wine. Crowded subway cars. It’s about sand at the bottom of your sock drawer. The first water balloon you ever made. And when you discovered bedtimes were flexible. It’s about the things you never threw away, and, then, the ones you did.

You can know the number of flavors, can calculate the force of the punch, determine the volume of wine spilled, count, weigh, and tell time. But in between the numbers are vast expanses of what must be some cousin to dark matter. In between the things we think we understand – like the distance between the top of that bridge and the Black Sea below – is so much more than meters.

I could see the ship in the distance as I jumped off that railing. And in what is supposed to be a mere second before the elastic saves your life, I could see so much more. Evan’s first smile was floating there, mid-air. And Clay’s cigarettes. Mama’s pearls. Grandma’s ham soup. Growing right there in the air: the Lion King trees of El Espinal and the yuccas of Northern New Mexico. Hanging there: the row-boats of Mystic, Connecticut, the scorpions of Shaan Kaan, the rockets of Orlando. The Cantina. People peeking out of windows and calling out and laughing and opening soda cans.

The elastic caught me. The air was clear. And Varna, Bulgaria dangled upside down.

If you’re ever in doubt, go for it. Don’t ask how far. Don’t ask how long. Don’t ask how much. Because it will taste sweet in the end – all that richness – and there are no calories to count. It’s the densest, sweetest air I’ve ever breathed: that moment you realize you’ve earned the right to jump.