2. Although it may appear to the contrary, we do know that people have a life beyond what they do to get into college. Tell us about an experience you've had outside of your formal classroom and extracurricular activities that was just plain fun and why.
I yawn. It's warm in the van, the kind of heat that comes from bodies in close proximity. It's making me tired. I peel my arm away from where it had been pressed against my sister's, sticky in the humid July air. The air conditioner seems entirely ineffective.
"Are we almost there yet?" I yell up to the distant drivers seat.
"Getting pretty close," comes my father's reply from behind the wheel. I sit up straighter. My fingers rap a quick cadence across the window glass, channelling apprehension through my knuckles.
Max spins around in the seat in front of me, his face like a little kid on Christmas morning. His eyes glitter.
"Excited?" I ask wryly.
"Are you kidding?" He grins.
I stick my tongue out and he turns back around. I stare out the window as my fingers resume their beat, the kind of stare that looks but doesn't see. My eyes slowly slide out of focus. Before long, the crunch of tires on gravel pull me out of my daze.
"Here!" Max says, grinning ear to ear. I shake my head, smiling at his excitement, but secretly I'm as psyched as he is. I've known Max for as long as I can remember; he's almost like a brother. We joke that whenever we're together, we seem to find ourselves in ridiculous situations, that we're always having "adventures". We've hiked to the top of cliffs to hit golf balls into the lake at sunrise, walked to the bare summit of ski mountains, higher than the chairlift dares, to ski down through the trees, and every year or two, we come here.
I grab our cooler and follow Max down the path, emerging from the woods onto a rock slab overlooking a long canyon. Cliffs frame a narrow river; their jagged edges rising ten, twenty, thirty feet above the swiftly moving water. The rocks above are warm with sun; my sister, Bess, and her friend are laying out towels for sunbathing. I drop the cooler and quickly strip off my shirt and shorts. Max is already in the water.
"How's it look?" I shout, and the sound disappears into the ravine. After a moment, Max's voice floats up from below. "At least ten feet. Looks good."
The sun is warm against my bare skin as I step towards the edge of the cliff, and the worry of tan-lines briefly crosses my mind. My chest tightens with anticipation. I can feel the course granite beneath my toes as I curl them over the edge, the roughness dulled by the tough skin of my "summer feet". My pulse quickens, my breathing fast and shallow. My senses are on edge, my body screaming danger while my mind forces it to closer to the lip. I lean over, farther, father, until I can see down the sheer cliff face to where the water laps at the rock. I can't tell how far down it is, but at this point it doesn't matter; I know what I'm going to do. I close my eyes; I could be three feet above the water or three hundred. I'm not going to fall, lose my balance; I shouldn't, at least. But in a way, I love knowing that I could. Everything is acute, intensified, each moment building up to -
"Jump!" Max yells.
I step off.
Release. My stomach seems to leap suddenly higher in my chest, my lungs fill and freeze but I haven't realized I'm holding my breath. Thoughts flash momentarily across my mind: Toes pointed; arms up, don't slap them. I am deaf as air rushes past my ears, blind as my eyes screw themselves shut from the wind and anticipation of my watery landing. My skin burns with sensation as the lingering heat of the sun mixes with the cool rush of air as I fall.
My body slices through the water. My reflex is to lower my arms to break my fall; I force them above my head. The water is cold and I sink, quickly at first and then slower. My feet touch the rocky bottom and my lungs scream for air but I don't push off, savoring the contrast between the underwater calm and the intensity of my fall. I am still blind, still deaf, but it is different, slow and silent. Bubbles issue from my nose and mouth. I rise gradually through the cool water.
My head breaks the surface and I gasp, filling my lungs with air. Adrenaline rushes through me, my muscles tight, my senses heightened. Everything seems bright and sharp, as if a cloudy film had been peeled from my eyes. I love this feeling; I am amplified, I am invincible, I am alive. I laugh from pure joy... and realize I am being pulled downriver. Fighting the current, I swim to the rock and climb back up to the top.
I step up to the edge.