Friday, August 13, 2010

jumping blindly

I grew up in a medium-sized city in the deep south. My best friend lived in a small town 15 miles north. Halfway between, a high bridge spanned a muddy creek cutting it's way through dirty red farmland. The lazy creek changed pace under the bridge, from slow to barely moving, and deepened into a filthy, but usable swimming area. Occasionally, driving past in the summer, there would be someone standing on the raised cement guard rail, encircled by admiring friends - the bravest of the group working up courage for the jump.

One hot summer day, my friend and I decided to try out the abandoned swimming hole. Inspecting the bridge, there were x marks spray-painted of the guardrail posts, apparently to denote where one could jump and survive to crawl back up the bank - too many x marks, multi-colored and faded, spanning the better part of the bridge. Looking down from some of the marks, where deep, survivable water should be, it was all too apparent that they were now in error. After climbing down the steep bank to determine an area in the center of the creek that was sufficiently deep and debris free to make the jump - trying to reconcile this information with the contradictory marks on the bridge above - we came to the conclusion that the only way to be sure of the jump's safety was to attempt it.

As usual, I was the chosen one, my friend the smart cautious one. My friend, black as the night, was a big muscular fellow that you would never want to cross. He was better than I was, however, at appreciating the value of prudence and discretion.

Looking down from the edge of the tall bridge, the distance to the water was much more impressive than it had been from the relative safety of a vehicle whizzing by. From the bridge, the swimming hole appeared to be a slow moving, unsurvivable vortex of half-digested bile. After doing my best to do a final decipering of the 'safe marks' on the bridge, and with my heart in my throat, I made the jump. On the way down, I learned a scientific constant: the distance from any bridge, to it's corresponding body of water, can be determined by the amount of time one has to contemplate the stupidity of jumping into this unknown body of water, before having to deal with the consequences of said stupidity. There was way too much time for contemplation in this particular instance, the level of stupidity completely off the charts.

The fact that I am alive to write this suggests that I was somewhat accurate on the jump - cut-offs ripped all the way up to the belt, and a nice bruise on the rear from some discarded appliance, vehicle or railroad fragment embedded in the bottom of the creek, but alive none-the-less.

I have since lost contact with most of the deep south, including my friend. Someone did tell me recently that my old friend is doing well, selling insurance at a large national firm. I am trying to sell handcrafted jewelry online.

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