On the other side of the world is the perfect place for me to skydive.
By D. Moarzjasac
The Aegean Sea from 11,000 feet is beyond spectacular. The water changes in color from aquamarine green to a deep sapphire blue unequaled anywhere else. We are finally here. Delores and I have talked about taking this trip since our junior year in College. Our tenth anniversary seemed to be the ideal time to indulge our dream. It is spring and early enough to avoid both the blistering heat and the Meltemi Winds of summer.
Looking at the sea provides a background upon which I can project our history together. Delores could melt my heart with a single glance. We seemed able to anticipate each other's exact needs. Now the specter of her mother Desiree blocks all avenues of communication. She declared war on me the instant she discovered that I could not father a grandchild. Delores is twenty-eight years old, and the softness of her youth is slowly giving way to the fine lines of disappointment. There is nothing I could want more than to see the glow of happiness in her eyes.
Etienne, our pilot, let us gawk in peace since leaving Athens, except for minor interruptions as he pointed out islands below with exotic names and history as old as recorded time itself.
Delores’ excitement is apparent. I have trouble accepting that the only thing she ever really wanted is impossible for me to give to her. When I mentioned alternatives, adoption and test-tube babies, the only feedback I ever received from her was ominous silence. Who would have ever guessed that a childhood case of mumps could have such far-reaching and painful effects?
“That’s Santorini,” says Etienne, pointing to a crescent-shaped island far below. The enormous cliffs are breathtaking, from 11.000 ft.
After some conversation with the tower, we are cleared to land in our modified Cessna 182 at JTR airport on Santorini. The flight over the caldera calls to mind that this volcano ejected sixteen cubic miles of earth, rock, and ash when it exploded in 1650 BC. A tidal wave 1600 ft. High demolished the island of Crete and forever changed the whole Aegean shorelines.
Red cliffs form a monument to the extinction of the Minoan civilization. Looking at the gigantic hole in the earth makes me painfully aware of the one inside me. I hope that this trip and adventure might help to heal the yawning canyon between us. It opened thunderously with the doctor's announcement, “You will never be able to father children.”
“Supposed to be excellent weather for skydiving tomorrow,” Etienne says, snapping me back from the brink of despair.
Auguste has not said a word since we left Athens. His prolonged silence, as he hides behind his aviator glasses makes me wonder if he might be hungover, or if perhaps something else is going on.
We met in Athens, Etienne is a great pilot with a plane modified for skydiving and Auguste is a rather shy, skydiving instructor extraordinaire. We night-clubbed for a long while, and after consuming a lot of ouzo, we all returned to our hotel rooms. I drank enough to be unaware of anything outside myself. I breathed a prayer through an anise smelling fog.
Sunlight streams from a clear blue-sky lighting with its soft early morning glow. I look at the face of the woman who once believed in me. I have let her down so badly. The bile taste of guilt pushes its way up my throat. I hurry to the bathroom and let it spew into the porcelain toilet bowl. I take two aspirin and two Tums to level out.
I brush my teeth with minty fresh toothpaste and hope for the best. I wash my face and shave the stubble from my cheeks and chin. Returning to bed and seeing Delores sleeping all curled up like a baby overcomes my caution. Leaning over and kissing her soft lips, I sense her slightly elevated temperature. After all the time of us trying to get pregnant and failing, the signs are unmistakable.
With a mumble that sounds something like “Why should I bother?” she rolls over with an air of finality, pushes me away again. I feel a familiar painful knot. It has been two years since we last made love.
I order room service coffee and a light continental breakfast. A single tear etches its way down my cheek leaving its salty acid taste in my mouth. I stand there like a dummy trying not to cry like a big fool.
"Room service," announces a disembodied voice on the other side of the door.
I reach for my wallet, extract some bills, and allow for a generous but not ostentatious tip.
Like everyone at this hotel, he is young and eager to please. I slip a folded bill into his hand and sign the room service bill. He smiles widely.
When Delores emerges from the bathroom wearing a robe, I have trouble reconciling the woman I see, with the woman I remember. Her aura is flat and fades even grayer when she looks at me with her flint hard blue eyes.
"Juice honey?" I ask. I spread a generous portion of butter and some unknown berry preserves onto the warm golden-brown surface of the toast. I hope that this will meet with her approval.
"God, I drank too much last night," she nibbles at her toast and drinks all her orange juice quickly.
A long silence previously broken only by the soft sound of sipping hot coffee being is abruptly interrupted by the phone.
Etienne is on the phone apologizing for a long delay.
I said, “We will have a two-hour delay before we can fly,” repeating Etienne's message, sensing that it might be a long, difficult wait. I can deal with hostility, but her indifferent lack of interest is much more difficult with which to cope. I convinced myself that I had to try one more time.
"Delores, I had hopes that perhaps we could bridge the gap between us on this trip. I want what we once had back again.
"I want what you can't give me," she says in a voice filled with venom.
"It isn't on purpose, not my fault. I love you more than you will ever know. We need to find a way to deal with this when we get home."
"Your way of dealing with this is just not acceptable to me."
"What do you want? I'll do everything humanly possible to make it happen. Please, Delores, talk to me, we have to communicate if we are going to fix anything."
"Huh, there is nothing to talk about, nothing to fix, you are what you are."
"What am I? Delores, tell me."
"You are disappointing me and much less than I deserve." Her voice filled with poison.
In all the time I've known her, such cold, unforgiving hatred is new.
To escape downstairs and prevent her from seeing my tears I say, "I have a couple of calls to make. Then I’ll get us a cab to the airport."
"Whatever, I'll be ready to go in an hour and a half." She went back to the bathroom.
I go to the bar and knock back two doubles. I am past the point of feeling anything, inside is a big empty place. Hopefully, a few drinks will fill it up, at least a little.
Our cab arrives right on time; she comes down allowing the driver to open the door for her. She no longer accepts gestures of civility from me. I crawl in and try to get her to at least look at me. She avoids my eyes with an indifferent sneer.
When we reach the airport, we have more coffee and silent conversation until Etienne and Auguste arrive. I observe Auguste’s eyes when he looks at Delores, for the first time. I see the fire in his very gold eyes and an answering flame of sapphire blue in hers.
Etienne breaks a long and rather awkward silence. “If you have your cameras ready we can take off in a little bit. I retrieve my case with two Hasselblad cameras, four lenses and two motorized backs loaded with film and take it to the plane.
When we reach altitude, Dolores jumps first with Auguste right on her heels. I follow camera in hand with a long telephoto lens firmly in place. Through the viewfinder of the camera, I watch them as they fall. A slight touching of their fingertips sends psychic sparks that hit with the force of a sucker punch squarely to my stomach.
When we reach the ground, I sense something primal, a powerful molecular force between them, as fundamental as life itself. Her eyes light up in a way that I remember was once reserved for me. They keep stealing sizzling glimpses at each other. I pretend not to notice. Life inside me leaks away with a whoosh much like the air from a child's balloon.
We all eat dinner together and discuss where we are going to jump, tomorrow. The food seems dry and sticks in my throat, so I hit the ouzo very hard. We go back to our room without a word, kind or otherwise. I slip into a semi-conscious state on the bed. Punctuated by the distinctive click of the door I heard her leave our room.It still registers in my ouzo saturated brain with the force of a megaton bomb. I have nothing left; I am empty.
The ouzo kept me from hearing her return. The next morning before sunrise I rise, leaving Dolores in bed sleeping soundly. Visiting the lobby, I make several calls. I leave a message for my broker to finish converting everything of value in my portfolio to cash, and then deposit it into her account. Her net worth will be increased by $3,000,000 the next time she checks.
When I return to the room, her reaction is unexpected. “Where were you?” she says in an irritated voice when the sound of the door closing wakens her, and it registers in her brain that I was gone. When I look at her, she is glowing in a way I have never seen before. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that cells are doubling and doubling again in her womb. The thing which she wanted so badly is now hers with absolutely no help from me.
When we reach the airport, Auguste is already on the plane. He says nothing as usual. Waiting like a cat preparing to pounce, he hides behind his glasses expecting but not receiving a response from me.
“Such a perfect morning,” said Etienne.
“Yes, I agree," I say. I am unreachable, aware only of the soft, warm light that emanates from Delores.
At 10,000 feet, I give the camera to her, “Here you take the pictures this morning.”
I Dive out the open door I feel myself flying toward the caldera. There is an updraft which helps me stay aloft. When I reach the right spot, I know that this is where I want to be. As I adjust into a flat spin, I sense the magnificent colors of the cliff in every fiber of my being. Smiling wider than I have in years, I say to myself, "she will finally have the happiness that she deserves."
I don't touch the ripcord; it is the last bond with a world to which I no longer belong. I hope in my last seconds of free fall that she will experience no guilt and that her mother, Desiree, will go to Hell where she belongs. I left Delores a note in the camera case explaining that this choice is mine alone, and her happiness is more important to me than everything else in the world.
I revel in the freshness of the morning until I hit the blood red face of the cliff and return abruptly to the earth from which I came.