We started with an exchange of thumbs-ups, not because they fully conveyed our feelings but because we were plummeting toward earth rather quickly and needed a shorthand gesture for Yes, we will live; isn’t it exciting? I tell you it was beautiful, our unanimity in that moment, like a perfect cantaloupe to a lover of cantaloupe who’s been disappointed too often and almost given up on cantaloupe. And not just the flavor but perfect in color too, its flesh tender, sweet as a kiss, chilled but not chilly. We had parachutes but hers did not look right, not that I’m an expert. So, how to communicate this to her, that, while I wasn’t sure her chute would malfunction, neither could I rule it out? What angle of the thumb says that? While I grappled with hand-grammar, her grip on the ripcord handle was quietly eloquent. I didn’t want to panic her or let her pull that cord, so I started to swim in the air. Flat to the earth and arms outstretched ahead of me, my knuckles touching in the breast stroke first position, I bent my fingers ever so slightly to coax my body in her direction and stayed her hand. She made herself smaller and joined me at my altitude and watched my eyes (and watched my eyes!) and was patient. Unlike gravity. I had time for one more sign, the one that on land means Come here, but in our case meant Give me your hand and live to tell the story. I don’t know how much of that she understood, but she gave me her hand and let me embrace her and we sailed to earth sharing my one ‘chute and the rest is no more important to me than whether hers would have opened.

Copyright © February 27, 2008 David Hodges

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