Saturday, May 12, 2012

baSe


It was much, much easier than I thought it would be to climb over the railing of this bridge.

I had assumed I'd whinge and hesitate, leaning over and looking and leaning over and looking again and flitting around for an excuse to wait -- just one more moment, just to catch my breath -- and just one more pin check -- and just until this last group of cars has roared behind me, traffic wind pressing my jacket collar firmly against my neck, trucks bleating deeply and hoarsely when they see my silhouetted figure leaning out over the void of the canyon.

In actuality, the African sun recently tucked itself behind the Outeniquas. I'm quickly losing the light.

This is obviously, precisely the right place, time and moment to make this step. We're leaving RSA in a handful of days. If I don't move decisively, I'll lose this chance.

So.

I catch Brett's wide smile with my own. We dash to the other side through the headlights of the evening traffic. I follow the last trickles of honeyed sunlight that pour along the narrow railing. I find the center of the bridge. I gauge the breath of wind that moves across the span. I throw my right leg over. I throw my left leg over. The left shoulder of Brett's enormous rig has slipped from its rightful place into the crook of my elbow, so I slide it back and ask him to confirm its position.

I feel the cold curve of the railing under each hand.

I hear the rustle of the pilot chute as Brett gathers it carefully into his grip.

I glance quickly down at the river canyon below. It's perfect -- a long, flat, wide, soft swath of powdery sand. A shallow, calm panel of water slips along the left-hand side of the canyon, gamely wending itself out of my intended path.

A handful of construction workers has quietly lined up along the railing to my left, dark faces and hands disappearing into the advancing night, safety-orange jumpsuits craned over the edge, waiting.

I tip my chin up to the invisible horizon behind the hill in front of me, and I see the last of the light slide from it.

"Ready?" My voice is steady.

"Yep. I love you baby."

"I love you, too." Good lord, do I ever mean it. "Three, two, one...see ya."

My hands slide smoothly over the metal. My knees bend, then spring.

For a moment, perfect silence. Perfect peace.

Then, suddenly, the world is full of fabric sounds and I'm suspended over the riverbank. I grab one orange toggle in each hand, sashay into the slight turbulence in the canyon-bottom venturi and land, alighting gently on my feet.

I turn my face up to my beloved on the bridge and holler madly, my voice meeting his (and the construction workers') somewhere in the middle.

This is a fork in a long, long path, with the promise of an extraordinary journey ahead.

I'm so glad I waited for this.