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Born Again


Brian Peters

I stand poised on the threshold. My hands clutching the doorframe in a death grip; my stomach tingling with excitement. The bright blue jumpsuit billowing and snapping in the frozen blast of the gale force wind as it rips through the open door of Lang's Jump School's twin engine Cessna. My mind's locked in a fierce battle - should I or shouldn't I?

A voice yells over the rush from behind me and is punctuated by a reassuring hand on my shoulder. "I'm going to count down from ten and when I reach zero you jump. Remember your training and you'll do fine. Ready?"

"No. Yes. I dunno." I yell back, flashing a tentative thumbs-up.

My bravado ebbs and flows like the ocean tides. Thoughts zigzag within my head like moths around a lamp lit room. The color drains from my face as my heart revs up to one hundred fifty beats per minute. Sweat bursts from my pores, plastering my undershirt to my skin. I smell my own fear intermingled with burnt aviation fuel and glycol. This is going to be fun, I try to convince myself.

The jump instructor's practiced hands run over all the fittings, buckles and Velcro tabs. The static line is attached to my parachute's 'D' ring and set automatically to deploy my parachute after five hundred feet, just in case I can't.

Why am I up here? Sane people don't jump willingly from a perfectly serviceable airplane unless they have something to prove. What do I have to prove? Actually, plenty. Not to myself but to them.


I look down across the panorama of patch work green fields and sapphire rivers and lakes 1,200 feet below. I'm amused at seeing tiny ants driving tiny ant cars; tiny ants entering and exiting tiny ant buildings, carrying on their tiny ant lives oblivious to the anguish I'm going through up here. The picture steels me for the inevitable. I stick my head into the slipstream and the wind threatens to tear off my helmet and glasses. I hear my heart pounding in my chest. The thundering of the airplane's engines reverberates through the galvanized metal floor. My feet seem encased in concrete. I look around the plane's interior for a place to escape but it's just me and my fears.


Everything turns surreal as I watch the scenery below, my mind drifts blank. My sad life passes through my thoughts, frame by frame, as in a dream. It's a series of disappointments and false starts. At least that's what everyone believed. 'He is a sad excuse for a Heatherington' they whisper when they think I'm out of earshot.


My overbearing parents wanted me to be a lawyer like my father and two of my uncles. They sent me to the best schools; spent top dollar on my education; bribed the right people when my grades started to slip. But I couldn't take the academic pressure so I washed out. I'm such a disappointment to my parents.


Soon after, my brother, Frank, hired me on as a general laborer so I could make some money and move into a place of my own. A week later, twenty floors up, I slipped and accidentally kicked my hammer off the unguarded floor. It landed like a ton of bricks on the roof of the boss's Lexus. It was an accident. But I was fired, a stupid klutz. I'm such a disappointment to Frank.


Four jobs later, my life was approaching normal or so I thought. I had finally saved up for an engagement ring for Susan. Candles were lit, soft music played. But she turned me down because I'm simple; I'm unstable; can't hold down a good job. Her laughter still echoes through my dreams. I'm such a disappointment to Susan.


At thirty-two I turned to Jack Daniels. Jack had all the answers. He never judged me. He just wanted me to be happy. I wasn't a disappointment to Jack so he remained a close friend for a few years. But the doctor shook his head when he showed me an X-ray of my liver. I'm such a disappointment to my doctor.


I met Chayla in an AA meeting last year. Chayla's beautiful. She's all the colors of dawn; pale gold, soft blue, rose pink, cream white. Her beauty is matched only by her passion for life. She's done everything I wanted to do but they said I was stupid to try. I'm not going to disappoint her.


If I jump, I take back my life, she said. I would own my life and wouldn't care who I disappoint anymore. Chayla would be proud of me. She's my best friend. She taught me to take every moment in life and live it to its fullest. She's down there watching and I won't disappoint her.


I command my feet to move and I inch closer to my destiny. The roar of the wind and engines is deafening. I take several deep breaths and remember my training. I'm not religious but I make the sign of the cross just in case He is watching too. I don't want to disappoint Him either.


I can't do this. It's so high. Oh shit, what am I doing up here? Who's going to come to my funeral if I pancake? This won't change a damn thing. I'm still who I am and my reflection will never change.
I take a deep breath, waiting for the instructor's final command. Screw my parents. Screw Frank. Screw Susan. If I'm doing this, I'm doing this for me.

"0. Jump!"

I release my grip and plunge earthward. My arms and feet instinctively spread eagle to slow my descent. With each passing second my courage grows as adrenalin courses through my veins. I'm plunged into a dream place where nothing is quite real and certainly nothing is more important than the present.

A sudden jolt from the static line snaps me upright as the main chute deploys. I grab for the toggles and ensure the lines are not tangled. I'm floating under the silk canopy like a paper boat sailing across the ripples of a lake. For the first time in my sorry pathetic life, I'm free. Free of them. Free of their control. I feel life's bruises and stabs peel away like petals from an apple blossom. I'm born anew; a fresh start to relive my life. Of their own accord, my lips dissolve into a broad smile.

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