I'm lying next to you in the back of Nate and Sarah's car, watching through the sunroof as the power lines cut slashes through the twilight sky above us. I roll my head to the side, pillowed by my arm, to look at you. You're already looking straight at me, bright green eyes steadily meeting my gaze.
Your jump was perfect. Your jumps are always perfect. I can hear the rustle of nylon in the stowage beneath us; I can smell the faded minerality of the New River Gorge in the air, still caught in the fabric of your canopy.
You always glow after a jump, as though your blood is running itself ragged with joy through your veins, thrilled to have flipped over the side of a cliff and yet, miraculously, still be contained in your beloved vessel. I want to feel that, too.
I tell you that I wish they'd made good on their threat to prankishly PCA me from Mary's Gash the other afternoon. I say this because want to thrill you with my chutzpah, almost as much as I want to feel my feet swinging over the earth. I say this because I'm almost sure I would have survived.
"Not too fast, babe."
"I don't want you to get hurt."
I want you to say it.
I say it with my eyes and my lingering quarter-smile and my fingers on your sweater. I think you may have said it with the kiss you placed, so tenderly, above my brow.
I'm making breakfast for everybody.
There's an assembly line going - a bowl full of cheerily-orange shredded cheese, a stack of steaming tortillas, a chopboard strewn with redolent cilantro, and a little saucepan of spicy vegan potato-and-veg (from which I plan to set aside my own portion).
The yard sale is in full swing. Nathan's dancing on the roof to curry shoppers from the passing cars. I can see you in the street, slinging a ball back and forth to a friend like a ten-year-old. There's a great-dane quality to your bounding strides; an ease to your laugh unlike anything I've ever heard. I smile. My toes curl. I keep fussing with the pots and pans.
I spoon and season and sprinkle and roll. As I work, I suddenly feel strange - like an impostor, almost. I want to earn these new friends. I want to belong here.
As I pad out across the bare wood to the front door, my cat and their dog are standing eerily close, looking up at me. There's no tension. They watch me pass, backlit golden by the morning sun.
As I step outside, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude.
I don't like it.
You're standing at the edge, your canopy spilling over the side of Monkey Lips. There's a ledge below you, and a boulder. Some of the nylon is resting on the boulder. You can't see it from where you're standing.
I don't like it.
The photographer behind me, perched himself on a flaky promontory, sees it too. I ask him. He squints. I call out. You can't hear. I don't want to run to you; maybe you'd exit before I reached you.
Finally, another fella comes over to stand next to me. The minute he sees you, he bellows. You draw up your canopy and move back from the ledge.
My heart falls back down into my chest from where it was lodged in my throat.
This won't be the last time.
I'm watching you tell stories at the dinner table.
I'm so lucky that my lips shiver to think about it.