The guy was about to jump off of a cliff. We stood there and watched. "Do you think he'll die?", Zoe asked. Before I could answer he broke into a jog, big purposeful steps, and leaped far out into the air over the ocean some two hundred feet below.
A thing that happened a couple of weeks ago: it's 10:30 and the kids are asleep on air mattresses on the floor in my room. The New Normal, two nights a week, every other weekend. The trick is to tire them out, and so that day we'd gone to the park, to the library, and to the beach. There was running and there was throwing and there was climbing and there was reading and thus tired legs and arms and brains. The New Normal, and it's been ironically good - finding things to do on a single parent budget usually means going for the free stuff and the free stuff usually involves grass and sand and sunshine. I still haven't decided if I'm a shitty dad or not, here in the New Normal, but those nights when they sleep the sleep of what we call the Good Tired (the earned exhaustion following a lengthy session of running around outside and yelling just to yell because that's what's truly fun and good and right in life) I think that maybe I'm doing something right. There's a knock on the door and it seems louder than it is because sound carries differently across the apartment's bare walls, and also it's 10:30 at night, and who the fuck comes knocking at 10:30 at night? First I make sure that the bedroom door is shut. Then I open the door and as I do so I think you goddamn idiot opening the door at 10:30 at night you have two sleeping kids. I don't know who the guy standing there is, but I do know that he is either drunk or stoned, swaying back and forth in his shoes like he's on a boat at sea, looking past me, probably at nothing as the inebriated do
(but of course I can't help but think that his gaze is fixed upon the door to the room where my kids are sleeping)
and then he speaks. "Do you need some help?", he asks, and I respond with a stare
(and subconsciously I shift a bit, right foot back, left forward, slightly sideways so as to present less of a target and give myself a bit of leverage in case I need to take a swing at this fucked up asshole who's knocking at my door at 10:30 at night and I have two little kids asleep behind me)
and he asks again: "Do you need some help?"
"No. I don't. Thanks." I shut the door in his face. Lock both locks. Listen as he plods halfway down the stairs, stops, and then starts coming back up. My window is open - he can't get to it, it's away from the staircase, he'd fall two stories to pavement if he tried (and a part of me hopes that he does) - and I address him through it. "Go away. Or I call the fucking cops." No false bravado. My thumb is hovering over the iPhone's Emergency Call button. "Just wanted to say sorry, man", he slurs. "Fine. Thanks. Good night," I reply.
That night I sleep in the recliner in the front room, just in case. They pass through the night in sleep, oblivious.
The guy jumped off the cliff and disappeared and then his paragliding chute bit the air, riding an updraft, confusing the hell out of a passing cormorant. "WHOA!", yelled Lucas. "HE DIDN'T DIE!!", yells Zoe. We watched him make lazy arcs high above the sandy headlands of Torrey Pines until he got bored or tired and came in for a landing. "See how he pulls down on the lines? That's how you land." The kids looked at me, awaiting further explanation. "I don't really know if I can explain it. Physics. That's why he jumped. The world works in ways that can't be altered - parachutes open and they lift, you flare your chute like he did and you land, and so it's about as safe as jumping off of a cliff with a parachute can be, I guess." We headed to the tidepools. There were seals and sea lions and crabs and anemones, and the two of them spent the car ride home trying their best to say "anemones". I dropped them off at their mother's and headed back to the apartment. I thought about writing a blog post about What It All Meant, but decided against it. It was a good day, one they'd remember. I left it at that.