A little leap, a lithe launch, and five seconds of fear

“Just jump already!” Yuni yelled. 

I stood on the edge of the tiny cliffside, the cold, rushing river spilling over the shoulders of moss-encrusted rocks and landing on the clear green basin beneath. Looking down, I could see the rocks at the bottom of the translucent water, and immediately, one thought comes to mind: This is going to be a watery grave. 

Swallowing, I screamed, “Are you sure it’s safe?” 

Yuni laughed. “Yes! We’ve done it thousands of times! Jump!” 

As if to demonstrate her claim, a young boy launched himself off the small cliff, landing in the basin in a blink of an eye. Well, that was quick, I thought. Five seconds of fear. His head broke through the surface, and he spit some water from his mouth before beckoning me to join him down there with a goofy grin. 

Bad idea. 

“Jump!” Yuni shouted. 

I shook my head, terror in my eyes. “I can’t! The water’s not deep enough! I’ll hit the rocks!” 

“It’s deep enough, Ten!” Yuni answered. “It would make me really happy if you jumped!” 

Taking a deep breath, I shifted my feet to get closer to the edge, careful not to slip. The jump was no more than a couple of meters, certainly nothing compared to the heart-stopping final 40-meter dive I had to do in Kawasan Falls during my first canyoneering trip. Honestly, the height didn’t bother me. The possibility of hitting the rocks did. From above, they looked so close to the surface, making the water appear as if it were a bed of stones instead of a polished pool. 

Oh, the things you think about when you travel without insurance. 

Yuni rallied from the rock she was perched on together with her boyfriend, Advent. 

“You can do it!” she said. 

Advent and our other friends backed her up. He pumped his fist into the air and hollered words I couldn’t make out due to the incredible amount of fear ringing in my head. 

Soon enough, a cheer was going on for the green-haired foreign girl in her pink palm-tree patterned swimsuit.

“Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump!” 

I could hear their shouts growing louder as they egged me on. Most of them were total strangers or teenagers I’ve only met the night before. Some of them whipped out their phones, utterly unafraid of the risk the rushing river brings to these devices.

They clapped and cheered, cupping their mouths, and my name was passed on from one pair of lips to the other until it formed a chorus that coincided with the orchestra of the cascading water, the distant hymn of the birds and the soft sighs of the jungle breeze. The rocks beneath me began to appear more menacing, yet the water flowed and reached out a gentle hand on the small of my back and in a soothing soprano, sang a refrain of courage and credence. 

Our friends clamoured on, their voices competing with the concerto, and in a shrill voice, Yuni stood up for her solo, “You can do it, Ten! I want you to jump!” 

I took a deep breath and looked her in the eye. Nodding with newfound bravery, I forced a tight-lipped smile despite the fact that I could feel that my heart working its way up to my throat.

I felt my feet lift themselves from the moss-kissed rocks. The wind barely had time to run her slender fingers through my hair as I landed in the cold arms of the water beneath. The music stopped the minute I plunged into her skin with a devilish grin on my face as I opened my eyes to the ivory pebbles that adorned her silky flesh. 

For a moment, there was only silence as I sank deeper. Then, the sound of the water falling off the cliff’s edge became a muffled melody that sang a duet with my exhilarated heart. I was deceived by how close the rocks seemed to surface that I hadn’t realized the basin yawned further. 

Weightless, time stood still. My eyes were transfixed on the calm green waters as the sun smiled upon them. I tucked my legs to my chest as I watched like a waiting siren. The seconds passed by so slowly yet so quickly underneath that within a heartbeat, my head was bobbing on  the surface and the chorus resumed. 

This time, it was louder. 

Yuni whopped. “We knew you could do it! We knew you could do it!”

“Go, Ten!” Advent cheered. 

The couple gestured for me to swim over to them. I wore a triumphant grin on my face as I drifted lazily on the peridot pool, watching the sun kissed faces around me smile in return. 

I stood at the edge of the basin, water to my knees and strands of my hair sticking on the skin of my cheeks which were still flushed from the fall. My chest rose and fell with my deep breaths, and I was shaking uncontrollably with adrenaline over another conquered fear. I heard a cell phone camera flash as I emerged from the water, and as if on cue, I gave it my brightest smile. 

I looked at the waterfall behind me. Its rough yet graceful tumble was not the grandest of somersaults, but it plummeted like a hushed prayer to be discovered by those who dare jump. I offered it my sweetest smile, thanking it for our private affair underneath the chorus. 

Both Yuni and Advent got off the rocks they were perched on and wrapped me in a tight embrace. Yuni peppered me with excitement, her jet black hair swinging like a slick mop down her shoulders. The cheers began to die down, but the felicitations remained. 

“Are you okay?” Yuni asked. 

“Yes!” I exclaimed. “I was scared at first, but now, I’m ready to go again!” 

The couple chuckled. Our other friends made their way to where we were and took turns in taking me into their damp arms. As they blurted out ecstatic congratulations, Yuni and Advent announced that I was already one of them—not a member of their ragtag camping and hitchhiking group but a part of their keluarga. Family. 

“So, are we going to go again?” I asked, head cocked to the direction of the falls.

The river roared. It wasn’t the biggest leap of my life, but it was a test of trust, a surrender to strangers, a rite of passage that I have successfully leapt through. 

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