“We’re running out of time. Are you sure you want to do this?”
Was I sure? No. I mean, what is certainty when you have no idea what is actually going to happen once you say yes to something? The idea always sounds good at the time. All pumped up with frills and thrills and testimonials from random people, who may or may not be actors, claiming it was the best thing ever!
One thing I did know, having someone remind me every five freaking minutes time was running out followed up with are you sure didn’t help. I was already anxious once I said yes. It’s been weeks since and I’ve had a lot of time to think about this decision. It could have been so easy for me to say no. Heck, I wanted to say no first off! But I thought I should think it over and really make sure. Watch some videos of other people doing it, do some research on how many of died in the process, peed their pants or vomited. Pretty sure I’ll do one or two of those which will want me to want the third.
I could back out. I’ve done it before with lesser things. I’m trying not to let my anxiety get the best of me so much though and this would definitely cross a threshold of emotional and physical discomfort I have not experienced and lived to tell the tale of. That’s the thing. Why do I have to push myself into an area of discomfort to prove anything? What if it’s my rational mind telling my rational body this is unsafe for me to do? What if I go against what my rational brain is telling me to do and I pee, poop, or vomit myself right before I die from an anxiety inducing heart attack? Well, at least then I’ll be dead saving me from being embarrassed.
I’ve got to pee again. I’ve already gone three times since we left the house. I haven’t had any liquids or food but I manage to keep pumping out pee and what’s left in my bowels. I purposefully did not eat or drink in order to prevent this but yay anxiety always finds some tucked away for those moments when a bathroom is not available.
“I’m gonna pee one last time.” I say to the person I will never say yes to ever again. They keep looking at me waiting for me to back out.
“Okay, but hurry up. It’s almost our turn.”
I should’ve worn a depends or something. I’ve heard some people do it in situations where they may not have access to bathrooms. I’m not going to back out but I’m also not doing this again. Getting out of this contraption is annoying. They should have a flap or something in the crotch for easy access. What am I thinking? Those never work the way you hope. The one-piece body suit, heck, even just a one-piece bathing suit! Just pull the crotch over to the side they say. Until you realize you need both hands to get the toilet paper off the roll without unrolling half of it first. The bathing suits are the worst because the suit is wet which makes it even harder to deal with.
Don’t get me started on jumpsuits. I wore one once last summer. It was so cute. Like a blast from the past with a shimmery silver top with a spaghetti straps and built-in bra and a black bottom of flowing cotton pants cinched at the ankles and silver belt. I had the cutest strappy black heels. I looked like I was straight out of the 70s and loving it. Until I had to pee. By then, many others had used the restroom who didn’t know what a trash can was or how to use it. Water, or something, was on the floor and a couple of toilets had not been flushed. I thought women were cleaner than this? I found the least disgusting stall which had to have been designed and constructed by stick thin models because getting in the stall and turning around in it in order to shut the stall door without rubbing your legs against the toilet bowl was impossible. Lord knows what’s on the front of that thing. Of course, the hanger on the stall door is missing so I’m left with the ever-popular decision, do I put my purse on the questionable dirty bathroom floor or on top of the very tiny toilet paper dispenser where it may fall off upside down spilling the contents on the questionably dirty bathroom floor. I decide to put some toilet paper on the floor and set my purse on it.
Now for the jumpsuit. It had a built-in bra so naturally I didn’t wear one underneath which means once I undo the belt and unzip the back, I get to sit topless on the toilet. I’ve locked the stall door so I know no one is going to barge in but, nevertheless, my boobs are out. I really like this jumpsuit and I also don’t want it to come in contact with the front of the toilet bowl so as I’m undressing and pulling it down, I have to gather it up without scrunching it too much, hold it away from the toilet bowl, and not let it gather down around my feet where it may touch the grody floor.
I manage to accomplish all of this, do my business, and get the proper amount of toilet paper from the dispenser using one hand and take care of things. Stand up, pull on my jumpsuit, zip it up, arrange my boobs to the proper area, and fasten my belt. Turn around and make sure the toilet flushes, pick up my purse, and move on. I’m exhausted and vow never to wear this jumpsuit again. And here we are.
Not the same jumpsuit, mind you, but still a jumpsuit. Except, this time I’m wearing clothes underneath the jumpsuit. So not only do I have to go through the rigamarole of undoing everything and holding it place so it doesn’t touch the floor, I also have another layer of clothing to undo and hold onto to. I manage to get things done all the while cursing myself for getting myself into this mess and if I had said no in the first place I wouldn’t be in this situation. But here I am. As I get the last bit put back together and start to head out of the bathroom, I feel the sensation of having to pee again. I know it isn’t real, I mean, it could be, but I’m not going through the whole thing again just because I know my mind is playing tricks on me.
“Hannah! Come on! They’re calling us!”
Great. Now I really do have to pee.
“Coming!” I say and my body instantly feels damp. It feels like all of the pores in my skin have collectively let out a drop of moisture and I’m sweating. Hold it together, I think to myself. I feel a drop of pee try to come out and I squeeze down there to keep it from coming out. Jesus, lord what am I doing here…? I catch up to the friend who never be named and we walk together out onto the tarmac.
The wind is blowing which is a crappy thing because I have begun shivering from the intense feeling I am about to die from sheer panic and the harder I try to hold myself together and remain calm, the harder I shiver and my teeth start to chatter. My body betrays the front of bravery I’m trying to pull off. As we approach the plane, my instructor talks to me about what is going to happen but I don’t hear anything he says. The sensory overload of everything coming together has made my brain start to shut down. I can hear his muffled voice underneath the whir of the plane, the wind whipping past, and the chatter among the other jumpers but I cannot really hear what he’s actually saying. I nod my head as if I do though as he gently directs me into the plane.
Time has run out for me. I cannot back out now. I climb into the plane and sit. The jumpers are scrunched in on both sides of the small fuselage. My instructor sits down next me and scooches me closer in toward the person next to me to make room for more jumpers. Someone closes the hatch from the outside and the plane starts to taxi. I close my eyes hoping to minimize the external over-stimulation but all it does is make me more aware of my need to escape from this plane knowing I cannot.
My heart is beating harder than it has ever before and the tears are forming faster than I can stop them. I refuse to look at my friend who is ecstatic about this experience. I can hear him making references to Keanu Reeves in Point Break and think how happy I am for him and terrified I am for me. How can this one thing be so different for him than me? Is he not scared?
“Hannah. It’s going to be okay. Look at me.” My instructor pulls my face toward his and I open my eyes. His face is so sincere. He looks at me silently with steady eyes as if to say I can trust him and I do but what he doesn’t know is I don’t trust myself. I don’t trust myself to get out of this alive or unsoiled. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you. We’re together on this. I promise, okay?” He’s so sweet I don’t want to disappoint him and really, if I think about it, he’s my only way out of here one way or another so I say, “Yeah, okay.”
“We’re almost there so let’s get strapped up.” He says as he turns me away from him and pulls me close. Like spooning but not as romantic. My head is no longer with me and I feel like I’ve exited my body. This is what it must feel like as you’re about to die and you want one last look at yourself before you go under. I can feel my body being scooted toward the open hatch. When did that get opened? I can see people approach the opening and then disappear. Where are they going? My guy inches us closer and it dawns on me this is actually happening. We’re going out of the hatch. I feel myself shrink inside my body trying to get in the farthest corner of my mind where it’s safe but there’s so much shouting and everything is moving so fast.
We’re at the hatch. I hear him shout something but I cannot breathe at the sight of what is outside the hatch. The wind is whipping at me and before I know it, I am falling. I try to catch my breath but my mouth is blown open by the force of the air blowing past me. I began to choke a bit and flail my arms out in front of me to find something to grab. Something to hold onto for stability. I’m panicking and there’s nothing to hold on to.
“Hannah!” I hear my guy say loudly in my ear. I am reminded I am not alone by the sound of his voice and I stop flailing around. “Hold onto your straps. We’re gonna pull now!” And just as I pull my arms in to grab my straps, I feel my body lurch upward as if I was riding in the fastest elevator in the world headed to hundredth floor. My stomach and heart are now in my throat. Thank God I didn’t eat anything this morning or it would’ve come out for sure and probably all over my instructor. Or would it fall downward? I mean, we’re falling and it would be falling but would the force of the air going up as we go down force the vomit to go up and all over us?
“Hannah! Open your eyes!”
“I can’t!” I say as the tears return. I’m so scared of what I’ll see. I can barely emotionally survive being near the top of a ladder and he wants me to look 10,000 feet in the air? I cannot hold the terror in any longer and I begin crying.
“Hannah, trust me. It’s okay. You’re okay.” His voice is sure. “Don’t miss this. You’ve come this far.” He’s right. How dumb would I be to go through all of this only to miss it crying with my eyes closed?
We’re floating now, or as Buzz Lightyear would say, “Falling with style”. My guy taps me on the shoulder. I open my eyes slowly without looking down. I look to the horizon and the sky is the prettiest light blue I’ve ever seen. So pure looking. Like a picture. Then a brown layer over the city from where I came in the distance. Gross. I live in that? I tilt my head a bit to the right as my guy pulls the cords on our parachute turning our falling direction to get a better view of something else.
It's quiet up here. I cannot hear anything but the sound of my inner voice and the occasional something from the instructor. No birds, no traffic, no phone notifications, no incessant chatter from the nameless friend I came here with. It’s huge from here. The city, the land, the view. It’s huge and I am small. I am nothing and it was never more apparent than now from this perspective.
What was I even thinking to wonder how important my feelings are? All of those people down there think they’re the most important things, too. Do they know their hopes and dreams and feelings are everything and also nothing? Do they even know how small they are?
“Hannah, are you okay?” The question jolts me out of my existential tangent.
“Okay, cool. Your body went slack for a minute and I thought you passed out, haha. Makes for a harder landing.”
“No, I’m good.” And I was. Well, better than I was before. The immensity of it all made me realize I was giving too much weight to things that gave me anxiety. Wondering what other people might think if I said no or peeing my pants or vomiting in public. Sure, the last two are super embarrassing but I wouldn’t be the first one to experience it. I’m sure after the shock wore off and my friends stopped laughing for two seconds, they would totally help me get cleaned up and if they didn’t, well, then they wouldn’t be my friends.
We were getting close to landing and the world started becoming smaller and smaller. I tried to take in as much as I could before returning to the noise filled world where everything felt intrusive to my well-being. I sort of liked being up here where no one could invade my space or say something annoying. If only there was a floating toilet in case of emergencies. The logistics on that are mind-boggling.
“Hannah, pull your legs up straight in front of you like we talked about. We’re about to land.”
I pulled them up but had no memory of this conversation. Must have been earlier when he was talking to me and I was looking at him like I was listening but I was actually trying not to lose my mind from a full-blown panic attack.
The landing was smoother than I thought. Like a toddle being set down on the floor by their mother. Plop. I was alive. I could feel each blade of grass underneath me. Cradling me as if to say it was going to be here for me no matter what.
“Okay, Hannah. I’m gonna unstrap you so you can stand up.”
Stand up? I think I’ll just stay right here, I thought. Where it’s safe. On the ground.
“Come on. Other people need to land here so we gotta get outta the way.”
Of course! That would be awkward.
“Okay. I’m up.” My legs were like rubber and the peeing sensation came back. Once we got out of the way my guy stopped me, looked at me, and then hugged me.
“I’m so proud of you, Hannah. I know how scared you were. You did it and you never have to do it again if you don’t want to.” His words hit me harder than anything in that very moment. The safety and security I felt in his arms felt so good I couldn’t hold it in any longer. The tears came hard and fast. All the pent-up emotion from trying to keep it together coupled with the relief of making it through alive with incident. I was proud of myself, too.
All I could say in return was, “Thank you. I really have to to pee.”
And after a chuckle, he released me and said, “Me too.”