July 27, 8:06 am: Hey, do you want to go bungy today?
10:16 am: Missed call from 08…..
It was Brittany; the White girl with an adrenaline addiction. It wasn’t that I was ignoring her calls and texts – it was just that my body was still recovering from the unaccustomed exertion that I had been placing it under over the last few days.
“Hey Brit…Sure. I’d love to go bungee,” I said warily. “Sorry I missed all your messages. My phone was dead.”
It was a very convenient truth, but now that the batteries had been charged and contact made, there was no going back. You see, I’ve been in pursuit of my “best life”; i.e. trying things I’ve never previously tried – or seen the merit in trying – for a short while. And after veritable weeks of verbal bravado and swaggering, it was time to pay the piper. I’d gone on and on about how ‘cool’ it would be to bungee, and how ‘awesome’ it was to have a jump so close to our summer residence.
“Yeah!” exclaimed Brittany enthusiastically, handing me a brochure, “and FAZE has the highest bungee jump in the WORLD.”
“No, it really does,” she said earnestly. “It’s the highest according to the Guinness Book of Records.”
I spoke only when absolutely necessary on the ride to Bloukrans. Fueled only by a cup of yoghurt and a Snicker’s bar, I only had enough energy to answer when spoken to.
“Are you nervous?” asked Brittany.
“Yeah,” I admitted. “Where you nervous on the way there?”
“For sure! It’s totally nerve wracking.”
Way to boost my self-assurance.
Finally, we got to the site. I feigned excitement and walked bravely over to the souvenir shop where I had to pay for the jump: a whopping R650 (< $100)! The girl at the counter eyed me with amusement. After asking me to step on an industrial scale, she wrote my weight and jump number on my hand.
“You must go immediately to get harnessed. You’re the last one in the next group going.”
I only had time to react, so I sped over to the harness hut. I kindly man named Frederick asked me if this was my first jump.
“Yes,” I said.
“It’s a good start,” he nodded with approval.
After he instructed me to step into the harness and pulled the straps up around me. The Teflon ropes hugged my crotch tighter than a long lost brother. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. Once I was fitted, he radioed his compatriot to let him know we were on the way.
“Goodbye Marshall!” I waved. I love you.
Certain that I was going to die that morning, I prepared myself for certain suicide. I had chosen my clothes carefully: Black stretchy pants to camouflage any urine in the event that I involuntarily pissed my pants, a Hampton University t-shirt so that the divers could identify my body and tell the world that I was a college educated Black woman and not just some gidgit who’d carelessly leapt to her doom, and sneakers…because they were ‘sensible’.
A Colored man was explaining how we were supposed to leap. I missed the instruction because I was making up the rear of the bunch. This was not a good start. I didn’t know why I was there and NOW I didn’t know what I was doing. He led us from the edge of the mountain to the overpass of the bridge. It suddenly dawned on me: I was going to be jumping from a BRIDGE. If the jump didn’t kill me, one of the speeding cars above me would when the structure collapsed.
Oh Sweet Jesus.
Attached to the bridge was another structure made of chicken wire, spit and tape. We were expected to walk 60 feet from terra firma on this gangplank to the bungee site; again without pissing our pants. I saw the ocean from the left corner of my eye and the mountains to the right. Directly beneath me was a brown river, colored crimson by tannin…and probably a bit of human blood. My heart froze within me.
Don’t look down Malaka. Don’t look down!
Finally we got to the bungee station, which was little more than a maze of ropes and chords and a DJ booth. The band of idiots who’d also let someone talk them into this folly chatted amongst themselves. The DJ began to blare house music and current hip hop tunes. I felt a little more at ease, distracted by the music. Being the heaviest person to jump, I was second to last to go.
“21! You’re up!”
“What’s your name lady?”
“Is this your first jump?”
“Yeah. I figured if I was gonna do it, I should go big.”
“It’s a good start,” said the man lacing me up. “Why taste when you can eat?”
That ought to be a t-shirt. If I made it back alive, I would consider having a screen made.
“Okay, Malaka,” said the man breaking my thoughts, “this rope is made of blah blah blah, and has a tensile strength of blah blah blah. It’s strong enough to support 3.8 tons, so you’re completely safe.”
“And if the cord around your feet fails, you have a second one around your waist – got it?”
I nodded and smiled.
I nodded again, keeping my eyes firmly shut.
“Okay! 3-2-1: Bungee ai!”
Arms outstretched, as though receiving my destruction, and eyes clothes, I pushed myself off, hurtling towards certain doom. For a moment there was nothing but silence as my soul abandoned my physical being. Then there was a rush of wind that filled my ears.
I was falling and falling and falling. 40 seconds in, I decided to open my eyes. If I were going to die, I wanted to see. It was horrifying, terrifying and exhilarating. All 250 lbs of my bulky frame were subject to gravity, and gravity was winning big time. The tannin river was ever closer and the bungee cord had still not become taut. When it finally did, I said my thanks to God…until the elasticity forced me up a second time.
Oh Jesus…Oh sh**!!!
Praying, screaming and cursing, I went into a tail spin before finally coming to a halt and dangling like a dead piece of flesh on an old wound. Then I heard a voice.
Holy Spirit? Is that you?
“Hi!” I yelled back. My brain was pulsating and my throat was tight. I wasn’t sure if the voice could pick up on my gratitude.
It was a man. He hooked some stuff together and commanded me to sit up. Then he began small talk. What he said is beyond me. I wanted to plant a big peck on his face for coming to get me, but he was too far up. Eventually, he and his buddies laid me on a plank – again made of chicken wire and tape. At least I wasn’t midway in the air anymore. I sprawled on the surface and let them have their way with me and the harness.
“Would you do it again?” asked one of the workers, grinning through his gold teeth.
“Even if I paid for you?”
I shook my head.
“Uh uh! Okay, okay! I’ll do it if you pay for it!”
All the workers cackled. They seemed to get some sort of sadistic joy, knowing that we were all terrified and that the lives of so many mortals were in their hands.
“Some of them jump two to three times a week”, Frederick said pointing to his co-workers. “It gives you a new perspective of suicide.”
Yeah. I’ll bet it does. That’s why I’ll just wait for GOD to take me in His own due time, thank you very much!