Fear and other ramblings

November 3, 2011

The helmet pressed down on my head, feeling as cold as my insides. My fingers fumbled with the harness’ unfamiliar latches.
I’ve put on a harness before, I grumbled self-consciously—my eyes darting back and forth at my daredevil group members, expecting to be the last one to decipher the tangle of straps that dangle from my body.
I listen as couples on both sides of me excitedly chatter about the upcoming thrill and discuss the rest of their day, their children and other small nuances of their lives that only the other person shares.
And I desperately wish that I weren’t alone.
Longing for companionship is not something I’m used to feeling. Aloneness allows me to carry on a quiet, subdued, and orderly existence, yet, exciting when I choose it to be.
No listening to and nodding in sympathy at the empty conversations about shopping, dead-end jobs and small talk. Never having to put up with another person’s indistinguishable moods or wondering if he/she is having a good time.
Being alone, I’ve always felt, is far less exhausting.
But the reason for this, I have discovered, is because that premise is based on the assumption that I would be accompanied by people I don’t want to be with. Of course I am unconcerned with the woman in the grocery aisle complaining about the bad pedicure she received last week, and of course I roll my eyes when I hear two girls talking about their recent one-night stands. I don’t know them, and, frankly, the last thing I want to hear about is their stereotypical and oh-so-unimportant problems.
But, when it comes to someone I love, those feelings change. And suddenly, I’m interested.
Oh, if only I could be back in the 17th century with Jane Austen. She would know how I feel.
After all, she created Elizabeth, from Pride & Prejudice, who lamented, There are only a few people I care for and a far less of whom I actually respect.
Finding those special individuals is my constant quest.
So far, that group includes my small family and handful of friends—that handful being about the size of a toddler’s.
Such as my ever-supportive best friend who is getting married. And my selfless childhood friend halfway across the country who longs for a child.
My thoughts jolt abruptly to the slam of the door in the open-back jeep and the exhaust fumes settling in my nose complimented by a hint of evergreen. Leaves rain down in heavy bursts as I hobble from the vehicle under the weight of my life-saving gear, urging my flip-flopping stomach to calm itself.
I have done things far scarier than this. This is nothin’, I repeat silently.
But as I stare below, while being hoisted onto a barely-distinguishable wire, I shut my eyes and urgently search within myself for serenity.
I breathe in the rustic wood and fresh fall breeze that chills my nose and throat, and I jump.