|Jack and the Jungle
Author: Kris Noel PM
An adventurous dive into the thoughts of a young man desperately trying to figure out when his bad luck and recklessness will eventually end his life. His ten near death experiences appear to begin after meeting his dangerous new best friend, Jack Baker.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Friendship - Chapters: 20 - Words: 69,106 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 06-21-12 - Published: 04-28-12 - id: 3017737
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I could sit here for hours trying to contemplate a perfect beginning to my story, but I know that's never going to happen. You already know what you need to know. If I'm writing this right now, that means I'm alive. My story, however, is mostly about death. It's hard to tell a story about my life with some tension if you know I'm not going to die. How do I continue? How do I make you feel what I've felt?
I'm not even sure if you should feel bad for me.
When I say this is a story about death, it turns out it's more about my impending death than anyone else's. Many people have died because of me or as a result of my actions. I know it's my fault. There's no blaming anyone else and I'll always have that guilt associated with those careless years. The path I decided to take was what I had chosen.
For anyone who's had a near death experience, I think it's pretty safe to say that you were grateful to be alive after it was all said and done. Could you possibly imagine having to go through that again? Could you possibly imagine having another near death experience? Try having to go through almost dying ten times. It'd probably make you go a little crazy, wouldn't it? You'd probably wonder why you were being punished. You'd probably wonder where you'd gone wrong.
My life has been in danger ten different times. I'm not talking about Oh no, my right arm hurts. I might be having a heart attack. I'm talking about Dear God, please let me make it through this. I've suffered enough pain for one person to handle. There's blood everywhere, pus, urine…anyway, I think you should get some sort of idea of what I'm talking about. Probably more of an idea than you'd like.
My life has been nothing short of a miracle. The messes I've gotten myself into have no parallel to anything you could have possibly experienced. I don't know you, but I can say that with confidence. I've never been completely sure, but I think it all started out when I was younger. Either that, or it began with Jack. I don't like to blame everything on Jack. It's not entirely his fault. I was just as restless as he was.
But that comes later.
Sometimes when I'm in a difficult situation, I like to bring my mind back to something calming. I like to think of the feeling of a backpack hanging loosely over my shoulder and drops of sweat pouring slowly down the back of my neck. I also like to think of drinking water from a plastic cup. I like to think of a time before all the panic and the chaos.
When I went on my first adventure, I was too young to think of those things. I was too naïve. I didn't have any idea of the long journey ahead of me because I was just a kid. This is all I remember of the beginning.
I had never jumped off something very high before, at least nothing that caused my stomach to drop. Roller coasters were a different story. I enjoyed the rush, I enjoyed the drops, the spins and the flips, but this was all different. My body was going to be freefalling and crash-landing into the murky water below.
Everyone always says they'll jump until they look down. They see their sneakers slightly over the edge and something inside of them screams not to jump. Something inside of everyone says that it's not okay and that something bad will happen. But suddenly, your mind goes blank and you jump. You don't know why you jump, it's almost as if an invisible force pushed you. If you keep thinking, you won't jump. If you keep dwelling, you won't jump. If you think about the drop, you won't jump.
If you doubt yourself, you won't jump.
One foot pushed off the cliff and twenty-five feet came fast. Something happened when I felt the intense rush in my stomach…then I was completely submerged in water. That was it. I was done and I was going to do it again. There was something in my nature that yearned for me to do it again. That feeling never quite went away, even as I got older.
When you do something like that you share the experience with everyone else who just did it with you. You trust each other. You know you'll have some sort of connection forever. The people left on top unable to jump…well, you don't have that bond. They're just making excuses and usually everyone knows it.
Cliff jumping was my first taste of adrenaline. I had always been into that sort of stuff, but that was my first taste of it. I never knew what it was like before that fateful day. When thinking back on it, it makes me laugh. I was so naïve. I thought what I was doing was so original, so…unprecedented. I realized soon after it wasn't. That's about the time I wanted something more.
The night after my first cliff jumping adventure, a few of us met up at a local corner store. We were all lifeguards-there were four of us in total, including one aspiring Navy Seal, John. John let a couple of us get into the bed of his truck. This is the part of the night that I most remember. As I lay down on my back, I smiled as my knees touched the sky. At that moment, I never felt more ready to take on the world and I never felt more alive.
We wanted to jump off something higher. We all knew that twenty-five feet was really nothing spectacular and we were just amateurs until we tried something else. It was exciting to sneak off into the woods like that after hearing the stories of previous adventurers being arrested a couple nights before. I remember my heart beating nearly out of my chest as we stumbled deeper into the darkness.
The fifty foot water tower was our immediate destination, but that wasn't without obstacles. First, we had to climb down a cliff wall with the rocks uneasily shifting underneath our feet. We approached a concrete platform which John sent us running across, in order to stay out of the sights of the cops or cars passing by. That led us to the knee deep, mossy, sea weedy water that we had to wade across to get to the tower. We climbed over the fence, then through a second fence, and we were at the water tower.
The worst part was the barbed wire fence that blocked us from climbing up the tower to the top platform. Part of the barbed wire at the top and on the right side of the fence had been cut off. The fence on the right side, however, hung unsafely over the bridge and the only way on top of the tower was to climb around it, with nothing underneath us but the shallow water. It was still about a twenty-five to thirty foot drop and it took me a while to find the courage to get around the fence. I was terrified of falling and having my feet dangle like that.
Once that was over with, we climbed up the long ladder onto the very top of the concrete tower. As I lay down to catch my breath, I remember smiling to myself. The adventure to get there was good enough for me, but we still had to jump. Someone handed me a cigarette to steady my nerves as I peered over the edge. As I took a drag, I realized how high up we actually were. I let the cigarette fall into the darkness below.
"Someone has to jump," one of the lifeguards said. "We're going to get caught if there's too many people up here."
I pulled off my shirt and let my pants drop onto the platform, so that I was standing only in my boxers and sneakers. I had decided earlier that I would keep my sneakers on to make it easier to climb out of the rock walls surrounding the massive man made lake. I watched anxiously as some of the other lifeguards leapt off the edge. It was almost my turn and I knew I couldn't hesitate. For some reason, I felt like I had to prove my bravery.
Once they were cleared from below and I heard their screams of excitement, I forced myself back to the edge. I remember shaking and feeling uneasy about the whole thing. My dad had told me not to go. He warned me that there could be something in the water or it could be too shallow. His fears stayed with me as I closed my eyes.
I guess you could say it was a leap of faith.
A few seconds later, I hit the water. My original thought was that my ass hurt pretty bad. It ached for a while as I pulled at my boxers and then I let my accomplishments set in. I laughed and found my way back up the tower. We all jumped once more without hesitation and floated in the water for a good twenty minutes before leaving.
Floating in the water was one of the best parts. It felt warm due to the cool night air, so none of us wanted to get out right away. The creepy feeling I got from not being able to see underneath the water was unsettling, but for some reason I enjoyed it. I always liked being a little bit scared. I enjoyed anything that made my heart beat a bit faster.
While climbing back up the cliffs and over the fences, we talked about how much we wanted to be in a heist or some sort of adventure, or how much we wanted to be chased by the cops. The ride in the back of John's truck, soaked and facing the star splattered sky, is still one of my favorite memories to date. I remember just staring and thinking about how life could be so much better if people lived like this, if we all took chances. Maybe everyone would be happier.
I loved every minute of that night.
My love for nature came much earlier than my teenage years. My family had always been big on camping and we often took trips to the Pine Barrens. There was always so much to explore and discover. I know it sounds cliché, but I really found myself out in the wilderness. I really started to discover who I was and what I liked. Somehow, I knew I was different. I knew that nothing was going to be easy.
Nothing was particularly easy during my young life, but I tried to make the best of it. I never felt like I completely fit in and I certainly never felt like anyone understood me. In high school, my crush on Brittany Marc accelerated my depression. During that time, I was completely at her disposal. She always talked about how much she liked me, but she always left me hanging. I think I liked that at the time. I enjoyed the chase in the beginning, but after a while it started to negatively affect me.
The way she made me feel like trash wasn't that bad. It was better than feeling nothing at all. I clearly remember how she had ignored my eighteenth birthday and how she had forgotten to wish me a happy birthday. That was the first time I knew what it felt like to have my heart ripped out of my chest. I knew what it was like to love someone who didn't love me back. I guess everyone experiences that at some point, but I wasn't ready for it.
Other feelings eventually took over. I started to worry about everything. I started obsessing over where I was going to end up or what I was going to do when I graduated. I was never really good at having a plan because I never really wanted one. I never thought it was important until I felt the pressure from everyone else to make decisions about my future. That was what really terrified me.
The uncertainty of my future made me believe insane things. I was desperate for any sort of handle on my life and it felt like everything was spinning out of control. By the time I was in college for over a month, I had only made a few friends. I tried hard, I was friendly, but it was hard for me to make the effort. I didn't want new friends…I wanted a new life.
I thought about it for a while. I was always up late at night, constantly thinking about what I could do. Maybe I wasn't supposed to meet anyone else in New Jersey, maybe I had all the friends and support I needed. Maybe I had already met all the people I was supposed to. I tried to think that everything happened for a reason. I was in the right place at the right time. I was born when I was supposed to. I was who I was because of all those reasons.
I knew I had to leave New Jersey. It was that simple and it made perfect sense to me. I was bored. I was listless. I was fed up with love. I was fed up with the monotony, the everyday. I was a straight A student bored with daily life. It made sense and it didn't make sense all at the same time. I had a deep, dark feeling that I was destined to spend most of my life away from home and painfully missing those I loved. But it would be a pain worth having. Maybe someone would miss me for once and maybe I'd be able to make sense of everything.
When someone says they hope you're happy, they never mean it. When someone else is good at something that you want to be good at, you're never happy for them. You're never inspired. Sometimes I wanted to be alone. Sometimes I wanted to be with a group of people. Sometimes I wanted a girlfriend. Sometimes I felt like it would hold me back. I honestly felt crazy and nothing made sense. I hoped that getting away would create some clarity.
But no one missed me. No one cared. No one needed me. It became increasingly more unmistakable. I was nineteen and in an incredible amount of pain. Then…finally, someone needed me. It came to me as a surprise, but I was more than happy to tag along. That was during the time I was working in a museum in New York City.
There, I met a man who would change my life forever.