Friday, May 11, 2007


One Life No Net

I’m not built for this kind of thing anymore. Wind slices my cheeks in quick flurries— thin little razors. Gravity pulls me through a wall of air with two fists. My body could almost climb its way back up along the nothing of this fall. But air is not “nothing.” There’s something Zen-like about air in relation to bodies. Everything is falling, everything lives and dies in a state of falling, and physicists have formulas to prove it. They simulate orbits and collisions and spinning bodies on computers, and these are wondrous things that resemble Balanchine’s L'Enfant et les Sortilèges, dancing squirrels and cups and teapots, all held together in the frame of a stage where they leap and twirl—sheer magic. There’s love between falling things. I spread my arms, legs together, tapered, as if executing the perfect reverse three-and-a-half somersault--with tuck. Glee moves in and out of these limbs. This body. All bodies. Here. There. Mine. Hers. I close my eyes. Try to forget her unforgettable face. Will she cry? Will her features solidify angrily? Will she feel empty, unable to move, like Joyce’s Eveline?

I close my eyes for a moment, and when I open them I am halfway to the water. There is a little tugboat in the area, off to my left. I am reminded, vaguely, in a flash, of some golden childhood story my mother read to me. Some people on the deck are watching, pointing. The sun shines brightly against the flecked water which resembles a beveled coin, a silver fish-scaled river. An hour before I’d witnessed the morning sun burn clouds off the tops of the cliffs from my perch in the bridge’s northeast tower. At some point, as morning traffic began to build on the span above me, I stood. Leapt.

Now every sound has been replaced by rushing air, a roar so fast and furious that were those nearby cliffs to instantly crumble—the avalanche would raise a noise like this one beating at my ears. I see that I am about three-fourths of the way to the water and, suddenly, I think of my cat, Diego. Diego leaps up to or down from refrigerator or cabinet top with the fragility of a first fledgling flight, tender padded touchdown, his paws. Once he leapt out a second story window. My sister ran downstairs, screaming, much like this wind in fact. We raced outside expecting to collect a bag of bones. Diego sat contentedly. Nine lives they say. Flight. I begin to wonder. How many lives? Just one I think. Perhaps I will break the water at a “just so” angle, like a diver slicing in unharmed. Perhaps I will burst into feathers, like a bird in a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem. The water approaches faster. The faces of the men on the tugboat grow clearer, each intensely fascinated, none horrified. I recall a Zen saying: Leap, the net will appear. Not this time, I think, suddenly upended.

No comments: