The wind swirled my loose hair into tendrils. My attempt to keep it under control with a bandana was not completely futile, but a few wisps of hair always seemed to escape. My back rested against a styrofoam bench wrapped in cloth, Behind me were two rows of some of my closest friends. We ate, drank, and slept together, and we breathed skydiving. It made up our being. It was woven into our fibers. It had become our identity and the thing that connected us all. A passion. We would trade it all for this one thing.
The work was done. We were racing the sun as it threatened to set. It was the last load of the day. I looked out over the wing of the plane at columns of fluffy white clouds in the distance. The light was always brighter at altitude this time of day. I checked my altimeter and started my pre-jump routine. I clipped my helmet in place and checked all my handles. My cameras were on standby as I bumped fists and slapped hands with my friends.
Someone yelled. “DOOR!” I lifted the plexiglass door and thrust my head outside the plane, making sure the spot was good and the air clear. The light turned green, and I swing my body into the blast of wind outside the plane. I hung to the outside as two more jumpers clambered out with me. “READY?! OUT! IN! OUT!” We pushed off the plane and let go. We were flying…well, falling with intent.
Maybe the base came off the plane perfectly and we turned points with precision and nailed hybrids with spinning pieces that came back together effortlessly. Or, maybe it turned into a zoo-dive, and we fumbled around in the sky tracking away as far as altitude would allow before opening our chutes and flying into the sunset. No matter the outcome, we landed with smiling faces and ribbing elbows, teasing each other about our mad flying skills. As our feet skimmed the earth and we shut down our parachutes and gathered our gear and headed for the hangar, we knew the secret to living.
This was happiness, and the beer light was on.
If I traded it all
If I gave it all away for one thing
Just for one thing
If I sorted it out
If I knew all about this one thing
Wouldn’t that be something
—Finger Eleven, One Thing