Sitting on the bench, you’re waiting you turn. Your leg bounces up and down. You’re anxious, but that’s probably normal.
It’s nearly time. The instructor comes and helps fit your harness. The straps dig into your legs. But that’s probably also normal.
You walk out to the runway along the bumpy tar taxiway. The plane’s tiny. Single propeller with one seat inside, for the pilot. Everyone else gets inside, sitting on the floor. Two tandem pairs, including you and your instructor, plus a camera man. He’s there for the other person; you’re not paying for that shit. The plane lurches down the runway. It’s not going nearly fast enough to take off, you think, but it does, with a few meters to spare.
Ten minutes later, you’re still making wide spirals slowly upward. Now you’re nervous. The roll door is right there; the ground is way down there. You see Table Mountain and Robben Island. In the other direction, the coast stretches out; Langebaan and Paternosta are not far. It’s beautiful, today and always, you imagine. Breathtaking.
Five minutes left: you get briefed again on the procedure. Two minutes left and you’re clipped in. Sudden the door’s open. The camera man’s out. The first tandem is out. Your tandem slides to the door. The wind is so strong on your legs; your whole body is at an angle. Legs back, hands on harness, head back. And, remember, relax and smile, he said. You are calm now.
And then. And then. It’s nothing. But it’s not nothing. The air past your ears is loud. The ground shakes and climbs up toward you, ever more rapidly. And there’s the feeling in your chest, like your heart is huge, could pump a hundred times more blood if necessary. Maybe a thousand.
You turn around like a lazy susan. Your vision shakes. Trying to concentrate so you can see Table Mountain, the bay, the coast. You move your arms around to feel how the air hits them differently. You yell but the wind is the only one to hear it today.
The jerk upward and you’re vertical once more. (The straps cut into your legs quite hard now.) It’s so slow; it’s so quiet; it’s so still. You know how they’d describe it here: gently gently. Gently gently, you descend. Things become larger but you can hardly think. The landing is smooth. Your legs are unsteady as you stand.
But what are your legs supporting anyway? Just your stomach, chest and arms. Your head’s still in that bright blue sky.