Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Those who firmly believe that gays should have their rights stripped away over symbolism, semantics or religious doctrine will never change their minds, largely because they need an underdog to feel superior to. The gay marriage issue is the best thing that has happened to them in a long time. Their leaders know that every army needs an enemy.
However, middle-of-the-road voters who are so easily swayed by smoke and mirrors in the heat of a controversy may not remain steadfast over the long term, given that they have no well-formed opinions of their own, and the people who care about equality and justice are increasingly becoming aware of how serious this threat to everybody's freedom really is.
I may be hopelessly idealistic, but I think the net effect of Prop 8, long term, will be to illustrate the need for people to be a lot less complacent, and to actively take part in protecting their rights from vicious and unscrupulous but well-organized fanatics and their battalions of enervated stooges.
Also, I'd like to point out something that none of the articles I've been reading today really addresses: the California Supreme Court decision, although it does not repeal the amendment, really serves to define its scope and makes it all about the name.
Excerpt from pages 36-37:
Here the new constitutional provision (art. I, § 7.5) provides in full: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." By its terms, the new provision refers only to "marriage" and does not address the right to establish an officially recognized family relationship, which may bear a name or designation other than "marriage." Accordingly, although the wording of the new constitutional provision reasonably is understood as limiting use of the designation of "marriage" under California *\37 law to opposite-sex couples, and thereby modifying the decision in the Marriage Cases, supra, 43 Cal.4th 757, insofar as the majority opinion in that case holds that limiting the designation of "marriage" to the relationship entered into by opposite-sex couples constitutes an impermissible impingement upon the state constitutional rights of privacy and due process, the language of article I, section 7.5, on its face, does not purport to alter or affect the more general holding in the Marriage Cases that same-sex couples, as well as opposite-sex couples, enjoy the constitutional right, under the privacy and due process clauses of the California Constitution, to establish an officially recognized family relationship. Because, as a general matter, the repeal of constitutional provisions by implication is disfavored (see, e.g., In re Thiery S. (1979) 19 Cal.3d 727, 744; Warne v. Harkness (1963) 60 Cal.2d 579, 587-588), Proposition 8 reasonably must be interpreted in a limited fashion as eliminating only the right of same-sex couples to equal access to the designation of marriage, and as not otherwise affecting the constitutional right of those couples to establish an officially recognized family relationship.
So, if you really analyze the language of the decision, Prop 8 has been effectively reduced to a difference in terms. Of course, that doesn't mean everyone should say, "Cool! I think we're done here," but it really is kind of a setback for the "Yes" folks. Three steps forward, two steps back.
It's not like they can't marry whoever they want, as long as they're of the opposite sex and therefore of no romantic interest to them. Oh, waaaaahh, they don't want to marry someone of the opposite sex? It's their choice to feel that way, and although I have absolutely no evidence to support this statement, I will repeat it over and over again. I feel comfortable saying these things because my pastor, some guys on TV, and all my friends back me up. Also, it says in the Bible that homosexuality is a sin, right next to the part where it says that cutting the hair around my temples is punishable by death. Everybody just ignores that part, though, as it clearly doesn't apply to contemporary society.
Furthermore, same-sex couples can't have children, which everyone knows is the prime purpose for a marriage. Yeah, me and my wife can't have kids for medical reasons, but that's totally different for reasons I cannot clearly articulate! And now, the gays and all their liberal, whiny friends are infringing on MY God-given right to prevent them from doing things I don't like! They keep trying to force their views down my throat by loudly refusing to let me remove their civil liberties! Talk about intolerance!
Sheesh! The nerve of these people.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
My real anger is directed at the hundreds of millions of people who think that politicians should be held to a higher standard of integrity than they themselves should be. I can't speak for citizens of other countries, but I've come to believe that the stereotypical hambeast who tries to return a DVD player they just moments ago grabbed off the shelf of the local Walmart is a pretty good representation of the average American. These are the same people who vote for presidents based on the opinions of their moms and a few articles they've read in the paper. If even a larger minority of Americans actually had any integrity, our government would reflect this, but too many of us are busy trying to get away with shit ourselves to do any more than pay lip service to the concept of accountability in our elected representatives. And they know it, too. Prevarication is a part of our cultural heritage.
For the record, I think that a serious investigation into the war in Iraq, the breakdown of the economy, etc., is the right thing to do. However, for it to be any more than a token gesture, such an investigation would have to extend to the structure and guiding philosophies of the government itself, and we as a country would have to have the courage to recognize the fundamental problems that allow these kinds of events to occur in the first place, and make sweeping and drastic changes as indicated. In the absence of a cultural imperative for accountability, honesty and the willingness to learn from past errors, that's just not going to happen.
And frankly, if it's just going to be a token gesture to salve our consciences, I think it might do more harm than good. Whatever Obama does now needs to be decisive, including his mistakes.
Despite the fact that Obama is part of exactly the same edifice of obfuscation and bullshit that I've been shrieking about, I still harbor some hope that he might be able to turn things around to some degree. I think that is going to depend more on his personal character than directly on his competence as the President (although that's certainly important as well, and is greatly dependent on his character). He has everybody's attention; anything he does now will be remembered, and maybe even emulated. A little honesty from him, especially if it means making some hard, painful, but effective choices, could go a long way towards contributing to the sea change that's needed if we're going to grow as a nation.
We're not a nation of laws and foreign policy, we're a nation of individuals, and we could seriously use some strong leadership.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
But the sense of purposelessness that crowds my mind like a gang of sly and evil mimes is there for a reason. The irony of this does not escape me. There is a rhythm to the swelling darkness in my head, a sardonic repetition of thoughts with no meaning, like the empty rhymes of a fever. This discordant jangle has become my theme song, monotonous, compelling, and somehow smug, as if it were a tuneless dirge played by a filthy violinist on a street corner, his mouth turned up at the corners in a jeering smirk. Any day now, these nonsense syllables will begin to make sense, coalescing into words and sentences.
I should probably be afraid of what they might tell me, but like the impatient reader of a paperback mystery novel, I only want to turn to the last page and see how it all turns out. I’d really like to know.
But in the cavernous, shadowy library of my soul, the last few pages have been ripped from all the books, and all the swear words in the stories are in a foreign language. I read the Tao Te Ching once, but all the mantras were limericks about ladies from Nantucket and the lotus was one of those molded plastic tulips you see on the tables of cheap Szechuan restaurants where they don’t even bother putting water in the vases.
This is the big secret: everything in the world is a cleverly contrived cardboard cutout, and when you look around the edge to make sure, the façade extends around it so you can’t see the back and thereby confirm that you’re not crazy. So then you take it apart, certain that you’ll see the seams where they’ve glued it together, but it was built by machines with robotic arms in a big room full of crafty scientists with microscopes and they made sure that it looks like it does in the commercials because they knew you would look and so no matter how closely you examine it, you’re never really going to find out for sure. They count on that, because they know you’re going to wonder about it. But everybody gets tired of looking and gives up, so that’s okay.
So you wake up and put on your clothes from your Barbie® and Ken® wardrobe and get into your car that has a Hot Wheels® logo hidden on it somewhere and you go to work and cast surreptitious glances at people’s elbows to see if you can see the lines in their joints where they’re held together by flesh-colored plastic rivets. When you go to the grocery store, you know that the cans of spaghetti and chicken noodle soup are really all filled with the same amorphous gray jelly, but when you open it up, it looks like what it says on the label. I can almost feel it change when I open the can.
I can see the extrusion marks on the vegetables. They try to make them look natural, but I know extrusion marks when I see them.
I know better than to say anything about it. How they must laugh, watching me as I search in vain for the dangling thread which, when pulled, will unravel the fabric of the whole elaborate cocoon in which they have enshrouded me. I’m a fly caught in a spider’s web, its fangs pumping me full of poison which, if subjected to chemical analysis, would turn out to be Pepsi-Cola. But were I to panic and scream for help, they would chortle that I’m merely suffering from an anxiety disorder and write me a prescription for Prozac®, please show the receptionist your insurance card on the way out.
I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. The screams stay on the inside, where they can’t hear them.
I do have insurance, though.
Friday, February 6, 2009
This is a selection of a few of the ones that I like the most. Keep in mind that I never post these with any personal information of any kind other than A/S/L. These are basically the entirety of the ads.
WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SAP
Awkward, self-conscious greeting, followed by a pointless disclaimer to the effect that I never know what to say in these things. Narrative describing what I hope are intriguing, mildly edgy but undemanding personal characteristics. Blatant attempt to create the impression that I am lovable, attentive and of generous disposition, possibly containing overly sentimental and creepy references to my mother. Rambling narrative liberally sprinkled with polysyllabic words used out of context, obviously meant to show that I am intelligent and well-educated despite numerous misspellings and the absence of any coherent ideas. Self-deprecatory comments intended to offset the possibility that the reader has perceived my disjointed self-description as arrogant or self-serving.
List of activities I enjoy, most of which are derived from other personal ads I have read, or have been directly cribbed from them. Activities I actually enjoy are downplayed if they are commonly associated with undesirable patterns of behavior, such as football, video games, watching porn, and drinking heavily. Special emphasis is placed on interests that, while pleasurable and generally considered romantic (such as long walks on the beach), will more than likely never take place, as I will always be too busy/tired/hung over to engage in them.
Optional reference to expensive personal possessions indicating a substantial income, but which are more likely to be responsible for an enormous credit card debt that I will avoid mentioning for as long as possible.
Final comments intended to be flirtatious and demonstrate my clever wit, but which are actually fairly offensive, and reveal the fact that I am completely oblivious to my total lack of sensitivity to other people's interpretations of my sad and contrived attempts at suggestive banter.
Am I doing this right?
Somewhere out there is a woman who cannot understand why she is still alone. She is smart, quirky and pretty, and her kindness and capacity for love have remained untouched, even though she knows full well how vulnerable this makes her. Although she’s been hurt, she is stronger for it. The pain she has felt as a result of her open, trusting nature, though it’s made her wary, hasn’t prevented her from being hopeful. Because she isn’t pretending to be anyone but who she really is, her first instinct is to expect anyone to be that way. She reads the personals with cautious optimism and a species of wry amusement, both because it’s come to this, and because she has learned to read the volumes written between every line. Men are so funny, she thinks. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
At this moment, her heart feels half asleep, which is good. Otherwise, she would have to confront the tiny, hollow emptiness there, a quiet ache that is not quite sadness. When she’s actively engaged in the activities of her life, it is there, an undercurrent of ambivalence so subtle and familiar that it is barely noticed. It doesn’t stop her from laughing, from being goofy and having fun, from pursuing her goals or appreciating the goodness of her life. It is just a soft voice that speaks at odd moments, whispering to her that something is missing. Sometimes, it makes her want to cry, this feeling of longing for a man she has not yet met.
Somewhere out there, she thinks, is a man who is a lot like me. A man with strength of character, who is gentle and compassionate, but who doesn’t back away from the truth, even when it hurts. He gives more than he takes, not because he is following a principle, but because that’s how he is built. He has risen to his challenges without becoming mired in bitterness or self-pity, and has not forgotten how to play and how to touch the world with the hands of a child.
The best parts of his character are easily discovered with a little curiosity; they are not flagrantly displayed. He does his best to shape his world instead of letting it shape him, and isn’t afraid of being wrong. He doesn’t try to be sexy, but just is, because he is honest and open and unafraid, and because he moves with confidence and grace… perhaps not classically handsome, but good-looking in an offbeat sort of way. He might be a musician, she thinks, or a poet or a writer. He’ll like to read.
She thinks this as she reads a book, stretched out comfortably on the couch. Suddenly, she looks up from the page, almost able to feel his leg thrown casually over hers, his bare foot resting against her hip as he reads his own book on the other end of the couch. She smiles, the corners of her mouth turning up for a bare instant.
He lives in her daydreams as a hand that reaches out to stroke her cheek, a smile from across a room, a cheerful but formidable adversary in intellectual discourse and pillow fights, a laughing voice and an expressive pair of eyes that reveal so clearly the spirit behind them. Mostly, he is a soul; the essence of a man who is her equal in every way, and whose intelligence and playful good nature act on her heart like a tuning fork resonating to its matching tone.
It is this note she is listening for, the voice of a soul that is in tune with her own. But how do you hear that voice, she wonders, in the space of a few words on a page? What he does, where he works, what music he enjoys, his pastimes, those things are important… but in another sense, they don’t really matter very much. The ads she reads say a lot about those things, but seem to say little about the substance of the men behind them. A connection between two people doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it requires a context to nurture and sustain it – but without the connection, what do the details matter? Sometimes it’s not alone what is said, but how it is said that reveals the deepest truth...
It's snowing again. I'm in my home studio adding some guitar tracks to a song I'm recording, watching through the window as the back yard turns white. I'm frustrated because the good music, the music that perfectly expresses the way I feel, can't seem to make it past some obstruction in my mind. I know what it is, this obstruction, but that doesn't make it go away. Sometimes, this thing inside helps the music come out, inspires the most poignant and expressive melodies, but tonight, it's just sitting there like a brick in the middle of my heart, plugging my creative wellspring at the source.
We're not supposed to say that, right? We're not supposed to be so honest, so vulnerable. We're supposed to say that we're completely happy with our lives, and that we just want someone to share that happiness with. I'll be the first to affirm that relationships don't make people happy. I've tried that before. But if everyone could be perfectly satisfied on their own, the race would die out within a single generation.
I would be a lot happier if I wasn't lonely.
Who am I looking for? It's so simple. Someone who knows how to live, how to love and be loved, someone with an open mind, and who doesn't just wait for life to happen to them. Someone with a sense of humor. Someone who can always appreciate the beauty in everything, even when things are so hard you just want to cry. Someone who has learned the value of simplicity. Someone who can feel so intensely that their emotions just brim over.
I'm looking out the window, and the snow falling through the darkness is beautiful. I'd love to take a walk in it, catching the flakes on my tongue. I will. And as I walk, I'll be imagining an enchantress with smiling eyes leaving her footprints alongside my own. I offer to catch her a snowflake, and she watches as I do so, opening my mouth for it to fall inside. She says, "Where's my snowflake?" and I tell her she has to kiss me to get it.
Before anyone starts castigating me for being homophobic, allow me to state that I am not. This is a work of parody, and if you take yourself seriously enough to be offended by this extremely mild, tongue-in-cheek mockery, permit me to suggest that you ease up on the coffee and indignation.
For context, this was originally a forum post intended to be framed by a larger effort in collaborative fiction. Enjoy!
He lay on the bed in his jockey shorts, watching Julie emerge from the bathroom. She wore nothing but a t-shirt, and a short one at that. Her hair was still wet from the shower, and he observed with interest the play of light reflecting off her smooth buttocks, and as she turned towards him, the soft curls of her short pubic hair outlining the mound beneath, barely hiding the top of what he knew from his Human Anatomy class (and many gigabytes of Internet porn) was the emerging cleft of her labia. Her breasts pressed against the fabric of the thin shirt, creating shadows and molding the cotton into new and intriguing shapes as she walked towards the bed in the small, cheaply decorated motel room. She observed him observing her, and smiled slowly at him from under the lock of hair that had fallen across her brow. He smiled back, feeling himself responding to the clearly seductive glance.
He had recently found himself spending a lot of time with Julie, a friend of his from a stripper bar he frequented. In his desperate need for approval and love, he had turned his considerable charm and the contents of his wallet on her and, after spending almost every evening together for the last few weeks, she had suggested that they spend the night together in a hotel.
She sat on the edge of the bed near him, half turned towards him, her cotton-lined nipples poking out invitingly. He felt himself stiffening in reaction to her closeness. He had been waiting for this moment for the last month, and he was pretty damn horny, but it felt good to hold himself in a state of anticipation now that he was certain they were finally going to do the dirty dog.
‘Mmmm,’ she sighed, closing her eyes and twisting her body back and forth a little. ‘My back hurts. I could use a massage.’
‘I think I can accommodate you,’ he said with a little smile, lifting himself into a sitting position. He reached out with one hand and touched her arm, stroking it lightly. ‘Why don’t you lie down?’
‘I think I’ll just take this off,’ she said, opening her eyes and slipping the t-shirt off over her head, dropping it to the floor in a sultry heap.
He watched her through lidded eyes as she knelt and stretched her naked body out face down on the bed, the muscles of her back rippling gently as she swept her hair to one side, turning her head and resting it on the pillow facing him. Her buttocks rose gently where they joined her legs, and he thought he could almost smell her excitement, or perhaps that smell was just the natural aroma of the room itself. Either way, his oversized, vein-enwreathed penis was becoming engorged, filling his lower belly with a warm anticipatory sensation. He leaned over and brushed the back of his hand along the ridge of her spine, and she breathed a murmur of encouragement, goose-bumps appearing on her skin in the wake of his touch.
He placed one hand on her lower back and leaned over, his lips almost touching her ear. ‘I’ll be right back,’ he said in a low voice. Eyes closed, she smiled in acknowledgement. He got up and walked over to the small backpack he carried with him everywhere, and drew out the small bottle of baby oil he had brought in anticipation of a romantic interlude, or barring that, at least maybe a handjob.
Returning to the bed, he positioned himself next to her with his legs under his body and poured a small amount of oil into his open hand. He placed the bottle on the nearby nightstand and rubbed his hands together, warming the oil between them, and then slowly began rubbing them up and down her exposed back, from her shoulders down to just above the swell of her buttocks, which began to barely clench and relax in a slow rhythm as he continued the stroking movements. He could feel her breathing, her back slowly rising and falling under the firm contact of his hands.
His palms firmly against her skin, he found the muscles beneath and carefully massaged them, first pressing gently, then moving his hands with light pressure down her sides, where they finally slid over her firm, taut ass. He was beginning to feel a little warm. Stipples of sweat stood out on his forehead like crystalline bubbles of heretofore unslaked lust, at last in sight of fruition.
He kneaded her smooth butt with his open hands, pulling her cheeks up and apart and then releasing them to circle over the soft skin, concentrating on relaxing the quivering musculature. After a few moments of this, he ran one finger down into her crevice, resting the fingertip lightly against her anus, where it pressed gently for a moment, then slipped down further to move against the opening of her moistening vagina. As his finger probed, moving back and forth against her lips, she moaned and twisted slightly on the bed, clenching the sheet in both hands, her breath coming in little sighs and gasps.
He took his hands away, eliciting a soft sound of disappointment from her partly open mouth, and reached over to the nightstand for the bottle. Pouring more baby oil into the palm of his hand, he turned back to her and slathered the lubricating oil over her butt and upper thighs, his hands briefly disappearing between them as he spread the clear liquid over the skin of her legs. He closed his eyes with pleasure as he slowly and firmly pushed his palms up over her ass and up to her shoulders, following the lines of muscle on either side of her spine, then moving down her sides and hips, repeating the motion again and again in succession, her rear end rising slightly to meet him with each gliding pass of his hands.
Then, flattening his palms against the insides of her thighs with firm pressure, he spread them apart, exposing the glistening cleft at the juncture of her long legs, the swollen labia open ever so slightly, revealing the secret folds within. He moaned softly and, the blood pooling in his lower abdomen, reached out to touch her again, sliding his finger lightly along the silken warmth of the pink opening until her lips parted and the stroking finger gently, slowly penetrated her.
Unbidden, Horace’s face arose in his mind, and he imagined his lithe body lying on the bed before him, shuddering and writhing under his touch. This is wrong, he thought. In an instant, his growing desire had turned to ashes, his firm erection wilting as his mind repeated the words over and over again, this is wrong, wrong. His heart felt leaden and heavy in his chest, and tears sprang to his eyes as he thought of Horace’s sweet face; his slender, almost completely hairless body. He shuddered and withdrew his outstretched arm, one tear spilling out over his lashes and dropping to the sheet. He struggled to prevent himself from crying, the thought of Horace no longer able to be denied.
Forehead wrinkling in consternation, Julie opened one deep brown eye and looked back at him to see why he had stopped touching her. ‘Babe, why did you stop?’ she started to say, and then she noticed the tear on his cheek and his trembling chin. She turned on her side and faced him, placing a hand on his thigh.
‘Rupert, what’s wrong?’
He met her eye, still struggling for control over the sobs that wanted to burst free from where they burned in his chest. Another tear slipped out, paused for a moment on his cheekbone, and fell like a white dove that has suddenly been teleported to the planet Jupiter. She felt him trembling under her hand.
He put his face in his hands, unable to say a word. They sat like that for some time.
Eventually, a soft snore told him that she had fallen asleep, her hand still resting on his leg. He gently removed it and stood up. He turned off the light and sat in the chair by the window, curling his legs under him. He stayed that way for the rest of the night, alternately watching the sleeping girl and looking out the window, his eyes troubled and far away, until he too finally slept, huddled in the chair like a young boy caught all unawares by the sandman after watching television long past his bedtime.
The next day, after masturbating furiously, he told his parents he was gay.
Four years had passed since Rupert had openly admitted his sexual preference, and he felt like he had lived a whole lifetime in those years. So much had changed while he performed his tour of duty with the Imperial Space Marines, good and bad, that the person he had been when this all started was nothing more than a shadow on his memory. He had been so naïve, so hopelessly idealistic; he had never before been able to understand why happiness had been so elusive. He had pursued it with incredible single-mindedness, questioning every preconception and assumption, until his head was full of the structure of belief he was slowly building from the ancient ruins of his childhood. Holding up this complex edifice was the absolute belief that happiness could be the only purpose of life.
Biological life, he reasoned, had only one fundamental mandate: to survive and propagate itself, reversing entropy in a way no other phenomena in the known universe could accomplish. Life is singular in its organized response to quality, that indefinable concept which fits into neither the subjective nor objective frame of reference but which nonetheless drives every action and desire, and indeed the forward motion of evolution itself. This idea was formulated as he swept his coherent light gun through a school during a raid on Proxima k/3, instantly incinerating hundreds of screaming children. He laughed at the irony; on Proxima, evolution had been cancelled.
But the biological mandate of survival could not explain love, ambition, beef jerky, or any other human imperative that fell outside of the emotions and instincts that could be traced back to the need for survival of the organism and its progeny. The realization of happiness, the most basic if unstated goal of each individual representative of the human race, could not be considered necessary for brute survival. Every sane decision and pursuit of every person everywhere had happiness as its final intention.
The only explanation for the existence of love was that there was a higher mandate than the purely biological one built into the human animal; a directive to pursue a condition that made of life not merely a continual attempt to escape from fear, pain and hunger, but a passionate adventure and an unyielding effort towards fulfillment and inner peace.
For Rupert, who had rarely known happiness, its realization was more than a desire, it was more like a holy war, mobilizing every aspect of his intellectual powers to capture it and embody it in complete subservience and mastery over it. He lived to take every breath in absolute joy, to make every day a celebration of existence, each moment a unique treasure to be cherished and experienced with no trace of pain or fear or guilt.
After all the cogitation, the agonized livejournal posts, it seemed incredible that it could be so simple, but Rupert could not dispute the incontrovertible fact that for him, happiness mainly consisted of sticking his penis into other men’s butts.
The Imperial Space Marines provided happiness in seemingly infinite quantities.
So, I took half an airplane ride yesterday. Yes, I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane at 14,000 feet in the air, and lived to tell about it.
Why did I do this? I don’t know that I have a satisfactory answer, other than to say that I’ve always been utterly terrified of the idea, and so I’ve felt that I could not let it remain unchallenged forever. The opportunity presented itself when my buddy Rick received a jump as a birthday present and invited me along. I couldn’t refuse without giving up some self-respect, so I ignored the loud and insistent voice screaming “NO!” in my head and signed up.
Now, as to what it was like… to borrow a phrase from Herman Wouk, it feels like starting life over again with a million dollars. The act of exercising the willpower required to leap from an open door in an airplane so high that individual landmarks on the ground below are almost indistinguishable infused me with a sense of personal power. No matter how difficult or frightening any future situation may be, I will never again have to do anything as hard as that.
The three of us, Rick, Oliver (his brother) and I, took off with a couple of other fools in a small single-prop airplane, facing backwards on two parallel benches. The plane’s angle of ascent was so steep that we had to brace ourselves against the window frames to avoid sliding backwards into the tail. Normally, the flight itself might have been scary; knowing that I would shortly be exiting the aircraft in quite an informal manner overshadowed any trepidation over actually being in the plane. Interestingly, I didn’t feel anything I could recognize as fear on the ride up. The nature of what I was actually feeling remains resistant to analysis, but I think it was simply an awareness so heightened that every single detail of every passing microsecond was noticed and marked.
Once we arrived at our ceiling, our tandem instructors (to whom our backs were tightly fastened), gave us last-minute instructions. Two solo divers went out first, casually calling out “See ya!” as they bailed out, quickly disappearing into the slipstream. Then it was Oliver’s turn. As one of the other skydivers had said earlier in the flight, his eyes were huge with some unnamable emotion as he knelt in front of the open door. The light turned green, and he was gone. It was my turn next. I felt as though my body was on autopilot as I moved towards the door and knelt at the edge. Looking out, the reality of what I was doing hit me like a sledgehammer to the face. Suppressing the panic that swelled in me then is the hardest thing I have ever done. I heard Rick shout something, but I couldn’t spare the mental resources to notice what it was. Then the moment arrived: launch.
During the next few seconds, I lost my mind. No rational thought or focus of attention was possible; my consciousness was paralyzed. I know we rolled a few times as some automatic part of my mind registered the transition between sky, ground, and sky again. Then, suddenly, I came back to myself and could think, although I could not really process anything that was happening. The plane had disappeared, and the other skydivers were nowhere in sight. I (and the instructor strapped to my back) were falling alone, with nothing between us and the ground but 14,000 feet (2.5 miles!) of air. I found that I had no mental space for fear, wonder, or any relatively trivial questions such as what would happen if our chute failed and we hit the ground at 125 MPH. The only emotion I could feel was a mad glee, the apotheosis of glee. Even my own survival was a distant, secondary consideration. There’s no way to convey the raw, overwhelming fury of sensation. I have never felt more alive, more stuffed with vitality.
65 seconds after this new existence began, the chute opened, firmly arresting our descent. The ground seemed to have grown no closer, although we had closed half the distance. The remainder of the trip down was spent swooping to and fro, occasionally cutting tight, high-g circles, and laughing crazily. The instructor pointed out some features of the view, but I really had no interest in looking at some mountains far off in the distance. I could have been over a featureless desert and the experience would have been unchanged.
Eventually, the ground swooped up and caught us, and after unhooking from the instructor, I ran over to embrace my fellow jumpers. Oliver’s wife noted that whereas we seemed like condemned men as we walked to the airplane before the jump, we were positively swaggering afterward. I wasn’t aware of this at the time, but the video evidence leaves no doubt.
We are all going to jump again soon. I’m not certain why. It’s going to be a long time before I really have a grasp on this experience.
I don’t know how intelligible this account was. I am still in shock from the experience, and possibly appear totally insane to other people. Or, rather, more insane than I normally appear. Hopefully, it was entertaining.