Belly List

Sucking on garlic buttery snails, after shooting a Bandersnatch on Crete, drinking a cup of French Alps chestnut-colored wine.

We had just jumped from a small airplane, freefalling in a creeping phlox sky losing petals over the hot green valley evening, landing somewhere in France or Italy – we weren’t sure our exact location. We unpacked and set up camp for the night, and a local farmer who had seen our parachutes hiked up to visit us with a bottle of his wine and a round block of mountain cheese. And Jack had about a dozen dried Mediterranean sardines, and that was dinner.

“Serpent slug sardine?” the winemaker asked, and we all laughed and enjoyed the evening sun, emerald blue behind the disappearing phlox, the air on the ground still as hot as a bull’s back.

It was only a week after we had been skin diving off Fiji where I had touched the snout of a shark.

We came home for a rest and check ups, Jack’s bucket near empty, and that was when they botched the test, and I wound up with a secret surveillance camera permanently installed in my belly.

A friend of mine, still a stranger to gadgets like cell phones and caller ID, recently told me the most exciting part of his day is answering his house phone; because no one ever calls him, he has no idea who or what it will be. He listens as if boarding a train moving in the wrong direction.

The Fiji trip was a cruise plan, the shark a rubber fake. The farmer supplemented his measly income from his grapes with work for the travel agency. He was quite the actor. The wine was good though, and the cheese, and the sky and ground were real enough, but when Jack finally had the guts to tell me about the facades, at a McDonald’s with sidewalk tables in Provence, I said next year we should parachute onto the Matterhorn at Disneyland.

Wasn’t there somewhere on Earth we could go to experience real risk, bare of marketing and sales tourist traps? Yes, of course, and people are dying or worse to escape from those places. You are at risk wherever you are. There is no sanctuary safe from the microbes in your soup.

Deep belly laugh, a bark. The bark repeats through the sleeping night.

There is only one thing, Jack says, in the morning, left for us, not a last adventure, but a true adventure at last. To be still and to relax at the same time. Finally, emerging from our middle ages, without even thinking much about it, we begin to learn to breathe.

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