Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
“Don’t worry, ma’am, it will be just fine!”
It wouldn’t be, Ellie was sure of it. She glanced down at the reassuring smile of the black man who was tying her feet together and felt her stomach twist and turn. Granted, there had never been an accident before. Granted, it was considered the safest jump in the world. But experience had taught her that there was a first time for everything, and who was this man to tell her that she wouldn’t be that first time?
She wasn’t exactly there out of her own free will. Fifty years old, a born pessimist, a persistent no-sayer, miles removed from the daredevil character that drew so many people here, Ellie had been charged to come here by her doctor. Many people her age suffered from high heart rates. Ellie’s was so low that the physician had marveled at the fact that she was still alive, and had deemed that a healthy dose of adrenalin should get her body back up to speed. So he had sent her off with a note and a flyer depicting the bridge she found herself on now. He hadn’t seen that she had been shaking from top to bottom, though.
“I’m not sure if this is a good idea!” she blurted out all of a sudden. The black man just smiled and shook his head. He had heard it a thousand times before, so continued his work, as undisturbed as ever. Ellie wasn’t undisturbed. In fact, she was as disturbed as she had ever been, which was no surprise because she was as close to danger as she had ever been.
“Up you go!” the man said, heaving her up, and before she realized what was happening, she was standing on the edge of the bridge. Two men were supporting her now, or so it seemed. They had their hands on her back. She faintly heard a fast countdown. She wanted to object one more time. She opened her mouth. She felt the hard push. She was flying.
It felt like suicide. She didn’t feel anything except for the cool air around her. Her eyes were pushed back into their sockets, her breathing ceased, and the ground came ever closer. And closer. She would be the first time.
As the thought settled, the lurch came. The fall slowed and came to a stop. Ellie was catapulted upwards, and as she registered this proof of safety, her fear was replaced by a feeling of enjoyment. Her heart raced. It was almost beating out of her chest. She had never felt so alive.
As the jump came to a stop, the black man lowered himself down to her level and attached her to a rope that would take her back up. She was once again greeted by his reassuring smile.
“How was it, ma’am?” he asked.
Ellie giggled, a sound she had not heard out of her own mouth since she was a little girl. Delighted by this, she asked in an exasperated voice: “Can I go again?”.