I’m going to be honest. Bare myself here. I was frightened of rum. I always pictured it paired with coca-cola, the equivalent to liquid candy. Blech. Disgusting. Never. Then, one miraculous day I took a leap of faith, mixed rum with ginger beer, a twist of lime and was hooked. In order to grow, sometimes we have to take a leap in the face of fear. Danalynn Coulon did. Please enjoy today’s Summer Chick Tale.
I wavered at the edge of the platform, wind gusting around my ankles. My eyes were fixed resolutely on the foliage in front of me, willfully ignoring the definite lack-of-ground below. Then it came. The countdown. Three. Two. One. I jumped.
I had practiced for months, seizing any opportunity to drill myself on that countdown. Outside of the grocery store, I would line up my toes carefully with edge of the curb. Keeping my eyes straight in front of me, I would count down from three, jumping the six inch drop once I reached zero. It became a game I played often with myself; How fast could I make my heart race for such a short drop? How much could I convince myself that the ground would not appear?
As I fell, I half expected cobblestones to appear under my feet. We were just kidding! Another test—look how your heart raced, you silly girl! An involuntary yelp escaped as the ground did not appear, as the fall continued, as my view of the peaceful, tranquil trees was replaced with a rapidly narrowing tunnel vision towards a sure, sudden concrete stop far below.
When I wasn’t training my legs to jump after they heard the number “one,” I was investigating. Every video was scrutinized, credentials were checked, and interviews were read. Research was my passion and I was skilled at it. I skimmed from article to essay, absorbing what I could and adding cramped lines of writing to my notebook.
I picked up speed as my body raced gravity towards the ground. The broken rocks below were shockingly clear, edges sharp against the concrete beneath. So many shades of gray.
I was ready. The research was spinning around in circles, chasing its own tail, no lead to pull it in a new direction. My lips pressed against each other as I grew closer to the destination. I should have brought Chapstick. My fingers starting picking the skin next to a nail in agitation. I practice breathing to the count of eight, breathing in a circle, controlled. I can do this.
Tears streamed from my eyes, the wind demanding this payment. Suddenly, I felt a pressure on my ankles. With that pressure came a sudden blossom of relief, starting in my gut and spreading out. I will live, I will live, I will live, I will live live livelivelive. My fall slowed, the pressure pulling me upwards was gentle and relentless. A burst of panic exploded like fireworks in my chest as I realized that I was being tossed up again. Another drop. Stomach again pressing against the inside of my clenched teeth. Hello tears, my old friends. The rocks below were no longer jagged, but reduced to blurs of leaden shade on ashy shadow.
The money was paid, the smiling attendants bustling to fasten me into a harness of cheerfully colored webbing. The body harness is in case your feet slip out—don’t worry! They rarely do, ha!—and the metal ring here, no this one over here, this is where you will clip in the wench once we lower it. Don’t worry about that part gal, it’s not as complicated as it looks!
As my oscillations up and down slowed, I started trembling. It’s easy enough to forget about a fear of heights when you have more pressing matters to attend to (a biological fear of falling tends to elbow its way to the front of your attention), but when suspended several hundred feet above the ground by only a thin rope, that fear of heights has a way of demanding attention. Irrationally, I clung with both hands to the rope above my head—clearly, it would be my death grip that would save me from plummeting to my doom.
Once all of the harnesses were in place, I could only hobble around; The harnesses about my feet prohibited much movement. I was helped up onto the platform and, petrified, I kept my face tilted towards the sky to avoid looking down. The laughter and easy chatter of the other people nearby seemed impossible, even as they gave their attention to me. How were they so carefree? How could they ignore the wet, heavy cloud of fear that nuzzled around me? I swayed on the platform, wind pummeling me, pushing into my back, my waist, my knees. I inched my way to the edge of the platform, hands grabbing the helping arms, fingers pleading not to let go. They obeyed my command to be still only reluctantly, flopping at the ends of my wrists like dead puppets. We will not have any part in this madness, they seemed to say. Go on, do it if you must. Then came the countdown. My legs knew what to do.
It took four tries to fasten the wench onto my harness. My hands were shaking, scrambling to secure the rest of me to a stable line. Once it was fastened, they gripped the cool, solid iron with relief, their job done. I took quick, darting glances at the ground, testing my heart, noting how it raced with each peek down. The mechanical whine signaled the wench’s effort and I was quickly reeled upwards. As I was pulled up onto the platform, as I lay, prone, against the stern metal grill, a silly grin advanced across my face. A giggle escaped with the next breath and my brain snapped back to the present, language reactivated. The words gushed out, bubbling with excitement and joy to be still alive. I floated, placid, off of the platform and took my place among the throng of viewers, no longer the object of their attention. The sandy gray stone underfoot was beautifully unyielding and I gazed out, content, admiring the view from the top of the immense Valley Verzasca Dam—the highest stationary bungee jump location in the world.
Author bio: Danalynn Coulon is an avid traveler. Starting this summer, she’ll be living nomadically and traveling indefinitely with her husband. Her blog chronicles her travels with a focus on art and fun details. Read about the exciting and scary new chapter in her life at Nomadic Vignette or follow her on Twitter. If you want to see a live video of Danalynn’s jump, check it out on YouTube.
Summer Chick Tales was conceived from my love of the season and my obsession with slurpees. I always have one every summer. I also love women writers. Lots. If you want to submit a story or be in charge of the mojito station, see the editorial schedule. Come on, join the XX chromosome party.
Photo of Verzasca Valley: Rasti Tkac.
If you haven’t heard, I’m participating in the Ultimate Train Challenge starting in September. Part of the Ultimate Train Challenge is our commitment to raising $10,000 for charity, by partnering with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and the Da Nang Association of Agent Orange Victims. Each dollar will go directly to children at the center near Da Nang who suffer from the effects of Agent Orange to this day. You can help donate by purchasing Eurail tickets through my website or donate directly by going through the Ultimate Train Challenge site. I’d like to thank our European sponsor, Eurail for supporting this important cause.