October 22, 2012

{Memoir Monday} Bungee Jumping

by Rachel Harris

To say that I’ve bungee jumped might be a stretch. While my body has plummeted through atmosphere with an extremely stretchy cord tied to it, I don’t know if it actually counts since I didn’t jump. I was pushed. By my friend, Chris. Who was dead.

Chris was one of those rare people who seemed to defy all rules. Physical, social, legal - rules didn’t apply to Chris. He didn’t worry about the things that most people worry about. He was only 21 when he died, so perhaps the rules just hadn’t caught up to him yet.

We grew up in a small Idaho town that had a peculiar practice of not plowing roads after a snow storm. And it snows there. A lot. This means that the streets were completely covered in ice most of the winter. On the rare occasions that the plows did make it out they only served to smooth the ice, which is why I call them Zambonis. Idaho winters are long; and the dangerous roads cause all kinds of white knuckles. And accidents. Then there was Chris. The hazards of the icy roads beckoned him for a thrill. One day we were crossing town during “rush hour.” Roads were crowded and covered in ice. Chris accelerated as we approached a red light and said “Watch this!” He crossed the intersection, yanking the wheel to the left and hitting the brake, cycloning his Jeep down the crowded street. It was a custom Jeep and I was strapped to the seat with a racing harness, but I still gripped the seat as tried to remember why I was friends with him. When the spinning stopped his vehicle was magically lined up between the correct lines, pointed the correct direction and Chris continued forward like nothing had happened. My heart hammered at my rib cage and I wasn’t sure whether I should laugh or cry.

Adventure abounded with Chris. He and I gazelled over the narrow crags of thousand foot canyons and rode water slides covertly in the middle of the night. Chris planned his days around fun. He always wore -summer or winter, day or night- a pair of swim trunks under his pants. Just in case. His life was all about living and he nearly always donned his signature crooked, mischievous, shit-eating grin.

I had seen Chris avoid the emergency room, law enforcement and death day after day for years until I just accepted the idea that he wasn’t bound by the same laws the rest of us were. I am cautious by nature, but under the influence of Chris, I taught myself to loosen up and take risks. I became aware of my inhibitions and was learning how to eliminate them. The epitaph at his funeral perfectly summed up his existence: You can either count your days or make every day count. There was never a boring day with Chris, and my endocrine system is still recovering from an overdose of cortisol from those years.

When I got the call that he had been injured in a snowboarding accident, my initial response was a nonchalant shoulder shrug. I couldn’t imagine that he could possibly suffer any lasting consequences. That he met death that day was utterly shocking. At 20 years old I was just starting to become aware. Of life. Of love. Of mortality. Chris’ life had inspired me to live more liberally. His death inspired me to love without restraint.

 It was two years later that I stood atop the bungee platform. I’m terrified of heights, but I was up there because, inspired by Chris, I was trying to conquer life and live it unabashedly. Getting up to the platform was the easy part. I froze on my perch, desperately wanting to have the courage to jump, but finding that fear disabled me. Looking at the remote trampoline magnified my terror. I found it easier to look at the distant horizon. When I realized that on that horizon was the mountain range that Chris died on, I was suddenly overcome with the feeling that Chris was there with me. He was laughing at my wimpiness.

“Come on, Eileen!” Eileen is my middle name and Chris never missed the chance to coax me with these lyrics.

 I don’t know how I departed from my perch. I know it had nothing to do with my normal means of movement. You know, my brain communicating with my nervous system, communicating with my muscular system, and so on. My brain had nothing to do with it. Hearing his words and seeing that smile caused my spirit to soar off of that towering platform, aching to have a moment with it’s absent friend. My body simply followed. While my mind was fully engaged in the panic of my body having a ridiculously long gravitational experience, my soul flew.

Rachel Harris is the mother of two, and a graduate of The Writer's Mind. She likes to take long walks on the beach and look for abandoned alien spacecrafts. 

No comments:

Post a Comment