I fell in love with falling when I was three. It happened in my dreams and the delight of it has never left me. To me, falling is a savory sweetness. It’s a thrilling confection that seduces and strengthens my senses — an irresistible emancipation. And ever since my first childhood taste of falling, I’ve sought out that sensation like a habitué, always stirred to the soul when I find myself tumbling down, down …
One of the first recurring dreams I experienced was a fantasy in which I was being chased through the upper level of a parking ramp. My pursuer would change from dream to dream. Sometimes it was one of my parents, sometimes it was a character from television or Saturday morning cartoons. More often than not, it was Darth Vader. (For me, being three was circa 1977-78, after all). Every time, as I reached the half-wall at the edge of the level and whoever was chasing me closed in, I would notice that although the parking structure came to an end, the parked cars did not. They continued on out of the ramp, past the concrete, and into the air as far as I could see; an endless expanse of sedans stretching out into a nebulous haze until they evaporated from my vision.
In the dream I would hop the guard wall to find myself still running, only now on the roofs and hoods of the cars, sometimes jumping from one to the next. It was at this point in the dream that my imaginary stalkers would fall behind and I would become acutely aware that the purpose of my movement had changed from escaping to avoiding falling into the spaces between the countless floating vehicles. But in each episode of this reverie, I would come to a jump I could not make. No matter how much momentum I had gathered to successfully propel me to the next car, I would fall through the opening in the autoshpere and settle in for the long plunge downward.
This was the part of the dream I looked forward to more than anything.
The plummet was from a towering height where the only distinguishable feature of the earth below was a patchwork of fields; a checkerboard of alternating greens obscured by wisps of lower layers of clouds. But instead of feeling anxiety or racing fear about how this dive would end, I felt euphoric. Like a thick waterfall of feathers overtaking my body. Like a gentle blanket wrapping itself around me and embracing bare skin. Although I was clearly speeding downward at a great velocity, I felt no wind on my body. Just a swelling tingle of pleasant fuzz as all my control, defenses, and ability to change course or brace myself disappeared in the descent. By the time the falling was done, my torso was vested in humming static and my legs felt like warm jelly.
The landing was always the same, too. At some point, my room in the tiny apartment we lived in would appear, roofless. Just before impact, my body would arrange itself into my normal sleeping position, and I would hit my waiting bed at full speed but without pain or abruptness of any kind. And in the fall’s final flourish, my head would meet my pillow at precisely the moment the building bliss reached the bursting point.
And I would wake up. My breath rapid but relaxed, my whole body reverberating and rested.
For so many nights after that I went to bed with glowing skin, hoping that closing my eyes would make the parking ramp reappear.