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Honorable Mention - "Jumpin' Java"

1997 Anne Horton Writing Award
Honorable Mention
"Jumpin' Java"
Sunshine Hall

The ride to the top of the platform in the lumbering elevator is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. I was slowly taken to a height of eighteen stories, 171 feet, or 2052 inches, as Jake, one of the "bungy technicians," would say. I had been outfitted with a chest harness that curled around both shoulders and was attached with Velcro straps in the back and another harness that held both legs and cinched at my waist. The waist harness was snapped onto the heavy steel ring at front and center of the chest harness. The security of the thickly padded canvas straps was very reassuring despite the fact that I was going to jump off the platform above attached only to a glorified rubber band.

The two instructors' comedic banter kept my mind at ease. Alan handled the technical aspects--changing the hand-braided rubber cords, reeling them in, and demonstrating proper form--while Jake handled the camcorder. I always get comments about my name, but I had never heard Alan's twist. "Is that your real name, or just your phone sex name?" he asked me. Their personalities and the way they played off of each other reminded me of the morning radio DJs I enjoyed listening to while driving to school.

The cord had to be changed to the smaller one to accomodate my weight that had been branded on my right hand in thick, black strokes of permanent marker. As Alan took care of that, I walked to the sturdy iron railing to take in the view. Despite the warm afternoon, the dry desert air had cooled, and the cold metal chilled my warm, moist palms as I grasped it. It was even more impressive at night. The Jumpin' Java/A.J. Hackett Bungy is located less than a block from the Las Vegas Strip. When I went up for my night jumps, the 20mph winds were blowing frigid gusts upward, bringing the sound of an indiscernible melody and the stale scents of cigarettes, free drinks, and sin from the casino. Looking down upon the dark and austere street behind the Circus Circus casino, I thought that I was in a better place. I was somehow detached from the glitz and showgirl glamour of Las Vegas and observing it from a safe distance.

Bringing my gaze up to the blinding lights of the Strip, I saw the miles-long glow of the rainbow colored lights stretching out until the desert reached out and snatched up the last of the multi-million dollar hotel-casinos. Each array was trying to outdo the next--chasing lights, blinking lights, vivid mosaics of lights. The lights themselves had to compete with the blackness of the night, the stars invisible past them.

When I turned my back, I could see the silhouette of the mountains beyond the desert in the distance. Here the stars glowed brightly enough to make me forget about anything that the Excalibur or Riviera had up their sleeves. All around me were things to look at. I was surrounded by the city, the desert, and the sky. And down below, people were looking up at me, waiting for me to plunge to my death.

I had almost forgotten about the jump altogether. My night jumps ended up being more of the daredevil, watch the concrete come at you at ninety miles per hour, check your pants afterwards kind of jumps. My adrenaline was already running high because of the anticipation, but after my descent sent my long hair swirling and whipping around my head and left me bouncing 100 feet from the rooftops below, I was laughing uncontrollably. By the time I had been laboriously hauled up by Alan (with help from an electric winch) and reached the deck to prepare for the next jump, I was jittery with excitement. My blood flowed faster, harder, hotter. My limbs were rubbery, yet tense. And the air seemed cleaner, crisper. Then I looked around me again with new eyes, drinking in the colors thirstily. The lights glowed even more intensely than before. The sky above the empty desert had become an unending, cavernous abyss, punctuated only by the piercingly brilliant stars. The spectacle was breathtaking. I remember saying to Alan and Jake, or to myself, or maybe to no one at all, "I could stay up here all night!"