I still can’t believe I did this.
Trussed up and connected to a long cable and quivering on the edge of Lehr’s Falls, I was poised to jump into South Africa’s Oribi Gorge. Moments before I had filled out the indemnity form that required my next of kin’s contact info. I whispered a silent apology to Kevin as I filled in his name and phone number.
At my request Richard checked my harness one more time and said, “I will count three-two-one and then you jump, alright?”
I inched forward, positioned my feet on the shoe prints painted at the very edge of the abyss and asked myself for the zillionth time why I thought it necessary to fling myself into a 300 metre deep gorge while tethered onto a 100 m rope.
I backed away from the cliff not sure if I was going to throw up.
“I’m too afraid.”
There was no way. I couldn’t do it. My heart seemed to be visible as it flung itself like an insane rabbit against my ribcage. “I can’t do it,” I said, “this is crazy.”
I took another deep breath and looked deep into Richard’s Coca-Cola eyes. “Richard, I know I said that you shouldn’t push me, but I don’t think I’m going to do this any other way. “
It should be noted that high adrenalin creates a strange intimacy because what I said next came from out of the blue. I immediately pretended to be kidding but I also knew that I needed it to be true. “I love you Richard, do you love me?”
Poor Richard. Who knew what sort of confessions he’d heard at the edge of this cliff. I’d met him only moments before, but still he assured me that he really, really loved me too, that I would be thrilled to have done this, and to just jump. Later I realized I must have wanted ‘I love you’ to be my last words before I jumped off the equivalent of a 30-story building into a gorge that was three times that deep.
I inched back again to the safety of the rock face. “What if I die of a heart attack Richard?”
“I promise you won’t die. Don’t think about it. Just jump,“ his voice was strangely soothing and hypnotic, especially considering he was telling me to jump off a cliff.