When I met Andy, he seemed to radiate adventure. We met for the first time at a tiny burger dive-of-a-restaurant, meaning it was not the most glamorous place but the type of spot people choose for a quick bite to eat and a beer to drink but end up four, six beers later tipsy and happy. We had planned to hash out an upcoming hike but instead the entire evening and early morning hours were spent talking of places we wanted to travel, the food and drinks we wanted to stuff ourselves with, and the cultures we wanted to experience. I said it before and I’ll say it again: He has a heart that is made of maps of the world he craves to see . . . and I’ll be honest, I was smitten. I didn’t know at the time that we would later date and he would challenge the way I had viewed relationships over the past few years. What I did know though was that I could have fun with this guy, we could have fun together, and (despite an argument in my head to not get attached) I began to mentally form a list of the places we could explore. Was I crazy? Probably. I had just met him. Just met as in, “Hi, my name is L. You must be Andy, that English guy I’ve been messaging about hikes?” and here I was, quite frankly, planning the rest of his holidays.
One adventure that topped the list was skydiving. We didn’t necessarily talk of this, but it was one that screamed “him.” Maybe that’s because he seemed up for it — desiring a life of excitement and passion, surprises, adrenaline. He, the type that pushes himself for more, yearning for the next great challenge to overcome . . . and well, I could see it because that is me. So meeting him that night, I hoped we would see each other past that dinner. I hoped we would become friends, travel buddies even. But what I hoped most was that I could be the person that pushed him, challenged him. Surprised him the way he surprised me that evening.
That’s when I started to plan. Andy is only here for six months and then he returns to his home in England. That means we will miss Christmas together . . . which, in my head, simply means I have to move Christmas up to meet him. So on October 2, Christmas arrived.
When I saw him that day, I began playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and giggling until he noticed the mistletoe I had taped above us earlier. Next, I handed him a Christmas card and an ultra thin, small “gift” wrapped in holiday paper.
“Merry Christmas!” I whispered.
“Wot??” He was as confused as any person should be on the second day of October.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!” I shouted, laughing. I couldn’t contain myself.
“Wot you on about?!?!?”
I started to sing the song to him, smiling as if he were the one that had lost his mind, then handed him the Christmas card which basically said how happy I was to have met him and how I wanted to be the person to surprise him in life. Then I handed him the first “present.” He unwrapped it. It was another “card,” which was really a piece of orange paper folded like a card.
Inside it told him to get ready, wear comfortable clothes, and shoes he can lace up; bring his ID and passport, just in case. After, the words “Let’s go on an adventure!”
A bit of time later, he was ready and we walked to the car together. From there, another wrapped “gift” was waiting in the passenger seat.
Inside I gave him directions to where we were going because as I wrote, “We may (surprise) get lost.” Then off we went . . . to Orange County, Virginia where his surprise awaited him. I was properly freaking out at this point because what he didn’t know was we were going skydiving . . . we as in me too and I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go, I just knew I wanted to do it at some point in my life and it would probably be perceived as cruel if I pushed him from a plane but didn’t follow. Meanwhile, he was calm and happy — singing songs on the radio, looking out the window at the scenery. “How can you not be nervous right now?!” I asked him through sweats and gaspings of air. His smile dropped. “L . . . Wot do you mean, ‘How can I not be nervous right now?’ Wot are we doing . . . ?” but I just kept driving, trying not to faint behind the wheel.
Finally, we arrived in Orange County and I followed signs to the airport. As we were passing a skydiving sign, I handed him his last “gift.”
Finally, I told him we were about to go skydiving and he immediately started to laugh, a panicked laugh, saying, “I cannot believe we’re about to jump from a plane!” Followed by a moment of more panic: “Wait! You’re jumping too, right?”
I parked and asked him to show me how he felt. This is his picture:
From there, there’s no way else to say it except we jumped out of a plane. 13,000 feet from the ground. Dropping at 120 miles per hour.
I was doing a tandem jump with a Michael Palin look-alike. My guy, thankfully, was calm and cautious — He walked me through every single second of the jump before we even stepped foot near the plane. Then, we re-enacted the every-single-second play directly after. The man adjusted and readjusted my harness, made sure I was in a great jump suit, and talked to me about how I felt before I dropped through the air. I felt treated like a goddess.
Meanwhile, Andy was partnered with a massive Navy Seal guy who didn’t really get a 100% A on compassion and kindness. He was a full-blown military-esque type of man. I watched Andy and him with a critical eye, making sure Andy was being taken care of as well as I was. Andy was handed the harness, same as me, but then the Navy Seal walked away, leaving Andy guessing how to put it on. Andy brought it up to his hips and held it in place, the harness about 200 pounds too loose. Not only that, but he didn’t have one of the wind suits on. Maybe he was too shy to ask, I thought. I’ll ask for him but I want to be sure first. “Andy,” I was putting on my bright purple suit, “aren’t you going to wear a suit too? My guy suggested it.” “Erm,” Andy looked around. His guy had disappeared. “I will ask — oh,” his guy reappeared, sneaky like military men in camouflage. “Do I need to wear a suit?” he asked, all sweet and British. The Seal looked at him like he was crazy. “It’s not cold enough,” he stated despite the fact that all other male and females were in a suit. There was an awkward silence between them. I looked away; I felt awkward watching. The Seal left his side. ” . . . Andy?” I whispered, scared the military man would come back and I’d get in trouble. “Erm, I don’t think I’m wearing a suit, L.” At the same moment, my guy asked if I wanted to wear a helmet. “Whatever you suggest — Do I need one?” “Nope,” he told me and smiled reassuringly. “Okay, then no!” I was happy . . . until I looked at Andy who was dressed in his civilian clothes, harness not-even-considered-on, and standing alone. Then I was worried. “Pst, Andy? Are you wearing a helmet?” “No,” the Seal stated to me, suddenly reappearing by Andy’s side. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I told the Seal, not exactly sure what I was apologizing for but I was definitely sorry for something. “L, I hope I see you again,” Andy said as the Seal motioned for him to turn his back on me. It was like a tragic movie separation as I was herded the other way — to the plane, to the other divers boarding, away from Andy. “NOOOOO!!!” I wanted to scream and try to jump over my tandem man to reach him. “I’ll WAAAIT for YOOUUU!!!” but it was too late — Andy disappeared in the darkness of the building and the sun blinded my vision. Wait, I thought. He is supposed to be on this damn plane with me! Daggon it if I’m jumping without him and I moved to the side to let the other jumpers board until there was my English boyfriend, harness still hanging from his hips, him still holding it up, him still the-only-new-jumper-in-civilian-clothes finally coming to the plane. “Are you going to adjust your harness?” I asked him, loud enough for the Seal to hear. The Seal just glared at me and put on his sunglasses. “Holy s***. WHAT was I THINKING?! I’m going to kill my boyfriend,” my mind raced as we boarded.
There were five new jumpers then their partners and some photographers loaded onto a small plane. We all squeezed onto two benches as we went up and up still into the air.
Let me add here literally a couple minutes before people were jumping from the plane, Andy’s Seal finally tightened his harness. Tightened it once then didn’t touch him again. Meanwhile, my man had been tightening it and rechecking me every minute. No joke. I mean, it’s not that I was all for male-on-male touching when it comes to my boyfriend, but Jesus! Touch him a heck of a lot more please, Seal Guy! No luck though which left me wishing fervently the whole time Andy’s first and only harness analysis was enough to keep him alive while he plummeted to the ground. It also made think, “Oh God. I really should have stressed for him to call his parents and tell him he loved them.”
In the end, they asked us which one of us wanted to go first — Andy or me. I let him pick because it was his present. “Me,” he said without hesitation. “If I see her jump, I’ll bottle it.” Lucky for him, he got his wish.
Andy said when it got to this part, he was thinking, “Mate, I don’t want to do the ‘One, two, three, jump’ anymore. I just want you to push me from the plane.” Again, wish granted.
Bless his heart. You were instructed to release hold of your harness when your tandem guy taps your shoulders. Andy’s guy tapped his shoulders . . . again . . . and again . . . and again so much so that he eventually just gave up in which case Andy — finally, finally — released his hands and enjoyed skydiving . . .Poor thing. Guys, notice his mouth. Bless it. When I looked at all of his pictures — and I really mean all — he had his mouth opened like this the entire time. “I was trying to breathe, L!” he told me. “I was thinking as we were falling, ‘How do I breathe?!’ and the more I thought about how I needed to breathe, the more I couldn’t breathe and the more I thought, ‘How am I supposed to tell him, ‘I cannot breathe!’?” Turns out, he basically held his breathe the entire way down. He was okay at first once he landed, but the lack of breath earlier took a toll on him when, in the car, he had a horrible migraine and looked like Death (no offense, Andy). So guys, if you’re planning to skydive, lesson be learned here: Close your mouth.
Not only this but he didn’t do the proper form when diving . . . You’re supposed to raise your legs in the back so that you are almost “kicking” your tandem jumper’s bottom. Andy though had his legs splayed all over the place. He said his Navy Seal guy was “manhandling” him to get him into place. I asked him why he didn’t just do as he had practiced and been told. He said, “L. I had a lot of s*** going on at the time. I. COULDN’T. BREATHE.” Alright. Noted.
Then it was my turn. Watching Andy fall from the sky surprisingly didn’t scare me. Strangely enough, the only thought I had was, “Well. There he goes. The only way I can get to him is if I go too.” No point in time did it dawn on me I could have just gone back to my seat and taken the plane back to the ground to meet him. So off I flew into the air . . .
I got to do a pretty cool hand-grabbing thing where my photographer and I locked hands and went around in a fast circle in the air. On the plane, he had asked me, “L, how much fun do you want to have?” “A lot of fun!” I told him excited . . . and also nervous because anyone that has green hair and jumps from planes for a living clearly has a different definition of fun than me. He explained if I grabbed his hand when he came close, we could do a cool skydiving trick that was pretty simple. “But what if I don’t want to do the circles anymore?!” I asked, scared I had magically signed in blood that I was going to circle my way to the ground. “Just let go!” he laughed. “Go SLOWWW,” I yelled over the plane engine . . . and that’s exactly what he did. Once we had finished, he came up to me and asked me about our trick. “I went as slow as was possible. It was incredibly hard,” he told me, which was really really sweet he did that . . . and made me feel bad that I didn’t appreciate it more because we probably got a sixteenth of the way around our “circle” when I immediately let go.
Once our parachute was opened, I was able to watch as all other skydivers sank in the sky. “Where’s my boyfriend?” I asked my tandem man. “Hum, I believe . . . right . . . there” and he pointed to the one and only skydiving tandem that was doing insane whips back and forth in circles so fast I couldn’t even count. Yep, I thought, that’s definitely him.
In the end, I pushed my boyfriend out of a plane. Alright. Maybe not literally. I actually hired someone else to push him out of a plane. And you know what? He still likes me. He could be just as crazy as I am. Or there could be such things as miracles.
Either way, I enjoyed falling from the air. Surprisingly, it was one of the most calming experiences I have ever had — at least once you get over the fact that you are actually plummeting through the air. Other than the wind rippling around me and through the parachute, it was quiet. Absolutely quiet, and I couldn’t remember when living had felt so silent and yet peaceful at the same time. I felt strong, powerful, and watched as the world below gradually came into focus. Even though the entire drop was only minutes, it felt extended, as if time had paused for me, for Andy, for this very moment which begged me to take it in. Life is precious, life deserves to be lived to the fullest extent and I’m so grateful for this second chance that I’ve been given.