Night Crawler

"Very few people become sky divers," continues Rafferty's reassuring voice, "but they take something away with them. Whatever your reason for being here, it's the right one." Rafferty and I are second to last to leave the plane. I can smell the wind as we approach the door. Rafferty pulls my head back against his chest and the floor is gone. We fall away from the plane toward the tiny world below -- a surreal grid of green and yellow farmland. It does not appear to get any closer, an indication of how high we actually are. The wind is cold and deafening. I am vaguely aware of my nose running. Rafferty gives me the thumbs up and I begin to look around -- the Monterey Bay, the Gabilan Mountains, the San Andreas Fault. The next 60 seconds of free fall pass in dream time. Then, Rafferty opens the chute. Our descent slows. Soon, we are floating with the wind. It is incredibly quiet and, despite the steady rise and fall of Rafferty's chest, there is a sense of solitude at this height. The light is strange. The blues are extra blue and the greens extra green. It is what advertisers want us to think of as a Kodak moment.

"Imagine," says Rafferty as if reading my thoughts, "some people are at home watching TV." I suddenly recall a hang glider who referred to sky divers as "whacked-out adrenalin junkies." I am certain now that he has never jumped.

The landing is soft, almost intangible. We just step into a golden field where a half a dozen people wait to take our picture and grab our chute. They ask me how it was, but somehow I don't think they will understand.

From far away I hear Rafferty say, "Thank you." I turn to wave and he says, "That was perfect. That's the way it should be." I couldn't agree more.

By Silke Tudor

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