There was no time to think. From the minute the two hours began, we were like soldiers falling in line to our sergeant's orders, or sheep blindly herding together, moved by a master we couldn't resist. She gave us a few simple instructions. Follow these two orders: Ready. Hep. On Ready we would bend our knees, on Hep we would jump. That was it. I wanted to ask a question, but our shepherd-sergeant had covered everything. She didn't leave room for questions, she sucked out the stall space with her thoroughness and it irked me. What if I wanted to buy some time by being a good student? We shuffled our little lamb legs over to the net. It turned out if she was the Sergeant, we were about to meet the General. He looked at us in black and white. The ones who would and the ones who wouldn't. We were under his command now and he gave nothing away but the words Ready and Hep. As I was contemplating the various delays I could manufacture to slow down what seemed to be a race to get us up in the air, Sergeant told us to write our names down on the whiteboard. This would be our order. The first spot was open. Husband smiled at me and said, "Well if it's ever gonna be the day to just do it, right?" I wanted to hit him. Instead, I took the first spot.
A few more instructions about safety belts and climbing the 23-foot ladder came our way. We zipped through a review of our body positions. Finally came a reminder about our two new best friends, Ready and Hep, and then, "Okay Courtney, you're up."
I tried to take a deep breath but it had nowhere to go. I turned my legs out as I climbed up the flimsy rungs in order to hug my body closer to the jiggling plastic death trap. I got to the top and before I stepped on the platform, I surveyed the ground below me. Shit, I thought. "Come on up," said Sergeant. I suppose I did because all of a sudden she was strapping me into the safety harness.
"Ten toes over the edge," she said. I tried to make a joke, calm the mood, buy some time. She didn't respond. My joke fell away, landed on the net, and dissolved. Damnit, I'm actually going to do this, I thought. Up until that point, I wasn't quite sure where this was all going. I looked down at Husband. He gave me a big smile and a fist pump. I wanted to hit him.
She held onto my safety belt and shoved my hips forward so they jutted out over the edge of the platform. She brought the bar into my hands, she told me to breathe and then from the ground the General spoke: Ready. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. Hep. I jumped.
The General barked:
Legs up. I had no idea what my body was doing. It just responded. It flung itself and used the deep, inside muscles to curl and uncurl my legs. Hands off. Everything looked like a Degas painting, fluid, heavy brushstrokes, colors blurring into each other. It was beautiful, but what exactly was it? Hands back on the bar. The details fell away and all I felt was the bar and the coolness of the air. Legs down. I was in the middle of nothing and everything at the same time. Hep.
I landed ass down on the net, sure that every cell in my body was trying to get out. There was cheering. But I couldn't quite hear it over the vibrations in my body. Everything was moving. Was that my liver up by my eyeballs? I had just jumped, hooked my legs up on the trapeze, let my arms fling back and then landed.
I crawled to the edge of the net, did the requisite flip over the side and looked at Husband who was wide eyed and proud. I squeezed him, wanted him to get up there next, wanted him to feel that loss of control. We giggled and immediately recounted everything that had happened in the last seven seconds to make sure we had both witnessed the same event.
So this was flying: a deep breath going nowhere and the total loss of perspective. My body was shaking with adrenaline. I paced slowly to calm it down. I wanted to get up there again. I wanted to turn off my mind and let the General command me into a flip and a catch and other tricks, which he would.
But nothing would be like that first moment of letting go. Nothing would be as daring as jumping off the platform that first time or as exhilarating as the effortlessness is took to commit to something bigger than my own control.