Sometimes I imagine what she must have felt like when it happened. I wonder if she saw the truck, or the driver’s eyes. I imagine her flying through the air and finally feeling free. It was probably all way too fast though. I don’t want her to have been scared. I don’t want to think that she even saw it coming.
When I was seven I would go to the public pool with my friends. We would have packages of cheese and crackers and, if we were lucky, soda in a can. I am not a strong swimmer, but I loved the diving boards. It is a point of pride that I never once had to climb down after freezing up with fear at the top. I didn’t think; I just jumped.
The worst part for me wasn’t the climb or even standing at the top. It was halfway through the fall. The part where you would’ve hit the water on the low dive, but this was the high dive, so you still had more air to fly through. The fall was only half over.
I would close my eyes as my legs kicked out into nothing and I slip through the sky. It’s the first time I can remember truly feeling out of control. I didn’t like that feeling. I still don’t. I’m trying to grow more comfortable with it. I’m trying to recognize that it’s part of what it means to be alive.
”What is your greatest fear?” I was asked at a high school sleepover with the cool kids. It didn’t happen often, me and the cool kids. We had moved from the Ouija board to playing half a game of “truth or dare”. We just played the “truth” part because we were too lazy for the dares. It is likely they had asked me about my greatest fear because they accurately presumed I didn’t have any interesting sex stuff to talk about — although had they asked the right questions they would have gotten some super interesting answers. But in small towns, in the 1990s, no one asked “are you gay?” at sleepovers — at least not at the ones I attended.
”Thunderstorms”, I told them. “They are my greatest fear.” They didn’t believe me, but they also didn’t care enough to dig too much deeper. It was true; I was petrified of storms. I had nightmares about swirling, apocalyptic clouds. It was not so much the thunderstorms that frightened me as the strong wind from them. What exactly is a gale force anyway? I was irrationally terrified of nature’s fury picking up my house and tossing it, or more specifically, picking me up and making me fly through the air.
I didn’t want to feel that feeling again. I was older and I liked that out of control feeling even less since it was no longer connected to the fun of jumping into a pool. I knew that the feeling could be caused by things that are dangerous. I set out to avoid it at all costs, to seek safety, and I failed miserably.
When you try to avoid that out of control feeling, it will hunt you down mercilessly. The harder and longer you try to avoid it, the stronger the shockwave when it finally crashes into you — like a head-on collision with a menacing truck. That was something she taught me, in a way. Sometimes one person can teach you a lesson, but long after they’re gone you will teach yourself how to accept it.
Once your feet leave the diving board there’s no going back. She wasn’t the only one flying through the air. We all are, so we might as well feel free. Close your eyes, kick your legs out into nothing, and slip through the sky. All of the things you’re afraid of and so much more — the truck, the water, the first kiss—you’ll never even see it coming.