1 Boy, Friend
Why do boys always drive you nuts? Especially once you go steady? Take Gigasploit. Don’t get me started. Yes, we call each other by our hacker names. Old paranoias die hard.
I could think of mega million better things to do than strap myself to flimsy nylon bands with the thickness of Mommy’s dress belts. Five foot one and a half inches (while suspended horizontally) may not seem much of a stretch to you, but they carry enough weight to rip these insubstantial bungee cords to shreds.
And that hideous harness. Seriously? What nincompoop designed this horrifying contraption? In which parallel universe does a plump purple vest go with hot-pink ponytails?
A deep abyss extended beneath me. I couldn’t see the floor. Only darkness. Shrinks say to face your fears. I am. Facing my fears. No one ever talked about opening your eyes.
Why did I agree to this nonsense? Why does any sane girl agree to a date at Kings Dominion Amusement Park? And let her so-called boyfriend pay extra to drag her to her doom atop the gravity and death defying Xtreme SkyFlyer? A combo of bungee jumping, hang gliding, and sky diving, all at the same time.
To impress him. To share his interests. To come off as funny and adventurous. I am. But do I have to prove that from fifteen stories high? Nothing that tall exists anywhere close to my home in the Fan District of Richmond. In the Old Dominion Virginia, in case the name of the nearby park didn’t give it away.
Downtown has skyscrapers that size. Trust me, nothing good comes from them. Drones fly high to spy on an unsuspecting presidential candidate. To then drop on her and explode. Which leads to a press conference. Where I see Derek. Now staffer to POTUS, the President of the United States. Who then suckers me into stopping a war with China. Where Gigasploit has to save my life. Told you. Nothing good comes from that height.
Other than his arm hugging me tight.
See, northern Virginia is kinda flat. No tall bridges to jump from. So some lunatics built a giant arch from the thin scaffold trusses that hold loudspeakers at rock concerts. Gigasploit definitely weighed more than a subwoofer. And I was with him. Because the Xtreme SkyFlyer let couples jump to their destiny together. They even allowed threesomes, although I don’t get that.
So my boyfriend and I dangled from a tower of equally high and untrustworthy construction. Skinny steel cables tied us to the top of the arch too far away to see with closed eyes. The towline held us in midair until released. At which point we’d freefall weightlessly. Physics also dictated that we’d fly forward until we reached the same distance on the other side. Like a human pendulum. Then repeat the torture on this giant swing for eternity. Or four round trips. Whichever came first. A curse on Isaac Newton and his laws of gravity and motion.
And I was supposed to do the releasing.
Because I’d never done it before.
To get the experience.
“Tower one.” The loudspeaker announced my imminent demise. “Three, two, one, fly.”
Birds fly. Hackers don’t fly. They dance. At least the pink-hat ones.
Nothing happened. Only one rider could reach the ripcord to launch us. But she’d turned into hot, solid ice.
“Tower one. Three, two, one, fly.”
Still, my hand refused his command. Smart.
“You okay?” Clueless Gig caressed my back.
Maybe, if I could open my eyes, I could answer the question.
“Want me to do it?” He felt me up, or fumbled for the ripcord.
Face your fears. Face your fears. Face your fears.
The tickle of his fingers on their quest across my backside became unbearable. I snorted out a laugh. My eyelids popped open.
OMG. Everybody below us looked like ants. Actually, microbes. No solid ground under my feet. Just a tiny plastic strip on nylon threads supported them. Help! Nothing for me to cling to.
“This One’s For the Girls” erupted from the pouch of my pink hoodie. A beautiful song about dreams and heartbreak. And Derek’s ringtone.
Worst timing evah.
My hand grasped the only solid thing within reach. The handle of the ripcord. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh.”
The pull of the center cable vanished into thin air. Literally. Gig and I went into freefall. Minus my stomach.
Below, the concrete and grass whizzed by. A gray cross grew larger and larger, the platform of the scissor lift that brought us into the starting position. Everything else disappeared from view. No way could rubber ropes stop us out of terminal velocity. Mega no way. How do I assume crash position? Shoulda paid attention to the flight attendants’ demonstrations.
Another scream died in my throat. Only one possible action left. Close my eyes.
Next to me, Gigasploit had the time of his life (and my death) playing cowboy. “Yee-haaaaw! Told ya it’s F-U-N. Friends who do stuff together. You and me. Anywhere and Anytime.”
Somebody had way too much F-U-N with SpongeBob and phonetic spelling. Not me.
A jerk on the harness marked the end of the first leg. A little give of the bungee cords took us to the farthest stretch of our journey. Motionless in the sky for a brief moment, I dared to spy a glimpse of what laid behind us. A row of green trees fronted by a white fence. Some showed off pretty blooms. We plunged through a cloud of heavenly fragrance on the reverse swing. Better than a smelly plane ride. Gig asked me to jump out of one for his birthday. Seriously? Maybe next year. Or next century.
Bungee gliding’s not that bad, once you get the hang of it. I’m alive. I think. One down, six and a half to go.
Mega less scary swinging sideways back to the starting point. A gentle breeze slapped my windward ponytail in my eye. Ouch. Like on sailing trips with father. Didn’t like them either. At first.
A gentle twist of the cables turned us back again.
Gig pulled me closer. “You love it, don’t cha. Gimme a yee-haw.”
With my inner heat cooling in the frigid air of opening day, his body and the sun kept me warm. “Yee-haaaaw.” I cracked a smile. What don’t you do for your boyfriend?
Newton’s stupid laws caught up with us. We lost speed and height. Kinda a shame. Just when I got used to flying.
“And now together.” He nudged my thick harness with enthusiasm. Boys.
“YEE-HAAAAW.” How could I resist his cute smile?
A slow glide almost took us to the trees hiding the fence behind them.
I tried to touch the cross as we passed.
Pleasant, really, if I ignored the lingering taste of blood.
From a raised platform, an attendant stuck out a tube holding a white loop.
Gig went for it, and the attached rope slowed us to a stop. “Again?”
I shouldn’t. I should. No. “I can’t. Derek hasn’t called in months. Gotta be important.”
Two hands swiveled me into a stand on the rising lift. Solid ground my legs could barely handle.
“Everybody’s wobbly the first time.” Gig’s arm supported me against his warm chest. Boyfriends do have a good use.
After we peeled out of the harnesses, I could finally reach my phone.
Gigasploit steered us to a concrete planter. Great idea to sit until the Jell-O in my legs solidified. The spectacle of colors also came with its own scented cloud.
My moronic hero picked up on the first ring. “Is your encryption indicator on?”
“I missed you too.”
“Er, how you doing, Cowabunga?”
“What do you think? You only call me right before the end of the world.”
“You love those calls. Admit it.”
Can’t say I disloved all the attention after saving the planet from nuclear Armageddon—twice. And to have a direct line to POTUS through an app from the Secret Service that allowed secure, encrypted calls. “Lock icon is on.”
“What are you doing in Doswell?”
The spooks included location tracking, natch. Not to my taste, exactly. Just what BFFOTPs, best friends forever of the President, had to put up with. “Having F-U-N at the amusement park.” I winked at Gig.
“Perfect. So you’re primed and ready for an F-U-N trip during your spring break.” Derek had to remind me of my upcoming obligation to MIT. Just when the Xtreme SkyFlyer successfully purged all images of computer programming textbooks from my mind.
“Depends. Are you driving?” If you had a so-called friend with the vroom of a 60s Ferrari GTO as ringtone, you’d ask too.
“Where you’re going, cars don’t move.” He always did that. Created an exciting mystery around the catastrophes he suckered me into. Knowing he had an excuse to stay mum when potential eavesdroppers surrounded me.
“You’re sending a plane?”
“It would blow your cover. When are you home?”
Lovely. My big crush fixing a date in my pink paradise while my boyfriend sat within earshot. May the Force be with me.