Two friends on the phone to my college dorm room. The night before they graduated. Me? I was just a sophomore hanging around to sing in the choir.
“No way. There’s still snow run-off coming down the mountain.”
A river which flows down out of the Green Mountains in May? Freaking cold. Water temperatures in the low forties.
I wanted to go so badly I was surprised I didn’t shatter into atoms in order to flow to them through the phone lines.
Methinks the lady doth protest too much? So very insecure at twenty. And so very smitten by the name still unspoken by my friends and I.
“We’re putting him on the phone.”
And there it was, their ace in the hole. If he asked me to go, I would have waded through the Arctic with him. Worse? He knew it. To his credit, he didn’t usually exploit it. He was always kind in that way. It didn’t lessen the thrall in which he held me.
I was perhaps foolish at twenty.
They picked me up less than a half hour later. The air mild, damp with the merry fecundity of spring in Vermont. Deceptively like summer, it was the kind of night that invited acts of derring-do.
And that was how I found myself, in a swimsuit, poised on a stone, beneath a bridge, where the road both bends and rises, hand in hand with him.
“This is crazy.”
And we jumped.
Giddy, arching, flying. Aloft, suspended, breathless… and falling.
Swallowed whole and alone, so very singular, in one icy pull, by the river, the cold ripping the air from my lungs, stopping my heart, dazzling my muscles. A moment carved away from rational thought.
Not even a moment. Only seconds. Seconds of complete separation.
Surfacing a few feet apart by sheer force of buoyant human flesh. Involuntarily dragged into the oxygen again.
Giddy, panting, paddling for the river bank, where some kind soul waited with a towel. The mild air balmy after the frigid river. United by the foolish pleasure of jumping, of surviving the cold.
The friends who orchestrated this fixed point in my history? I don’t remember if they jumped.
I did. I didn’t change the nature of things between him and me. If I’d been older than twenty? I might have understood that.
If I’d been older than twenty? I might not have jumped.
What a shame that would have been.