Anyone who's seen "Jaws" knows Second Bridge. It's the place where Sheriff Brody's son got attacked by the shark. For me and my friends, it was a place to play. Going to the beach was fun, but it always had its limits. I mean, how much swimming can a bunch of little boys do before they need something more interesting to occupy their time?
Now, State Beach, as it was called, did have a lot to offer. Up at the beginning, the end closest to Oak Bluffs, there were several stone jetties - always good for use as forts, and one even had a cave! Ah, but that's another story. At the far end, nearest Edgartown, was the nice sandy area with the beach plum bushes; my grandparents loved swimming there. In between was Second Bridge. Oh, it was called that because back at the start of the beach was First Bridge.
Anyway, we would go there and watch the teenagers jump from the bridge, and try to summon up the courage to try it ourselves! The bridge, for those who don't remember the movie, has a road, and then a boardwalk-like walkway on either side for people and bikes. The paths have a high inside railing to protect the pedestrians from traffic, and a low outside rail to keep people from falling into the water.
Of course, the teenagers, ever the daredevils, jumped from the inner rail. My friends and I, being timid eight year olds - who were trying to act brave - we elected to try our luck with the outer one. I stood on the top of that railing, looked down, and the water seemed very, very - very far away! I had no idea that the bridge had been built five hundred feet above the water. The water was blue-black, and I couldn't tell how deep it was, or what lay beneath. Could there be rocks or a coral reef, or creepy-crawly creatures of the deep?
Yet, standing there, I knew I couldn't climb back down. I mean, come on, a little boy show fear in front of his friends? My life would be over, and we'd have to move away. So, taking a deep breath, I closed by eyes, held my nose - because I just knew that falling from that distance would drive about a gallon of seawater up my nose, and stepped off. I was very surprised when I seemed to immediately hit the water. Had my velocity instantly jump to warp speed? I was expecting time to do a couple of those fancy flips and turns that the high divers always did on their long journey down to the water. Of course, at my age, I was think more of flaying my arms and legs about wildly as I screamed in complete and utter terror.
Dropping beneath the waves, I went down, down - down into those murky depths. I didn't open my eyes. Even though this was before "Jaws," I just knew that, if I did, there would be some vile creature of the deep staring at me. So, as long as I didn't look, I'd be safe. As rapid as my descent through air had been, my ascent through water was inversely long! I kicked my legs; and kicked and kicked, and the minutes kept clicking by. How long could a person hold their breath?
Finally, about an hour later, I broke the surface, and sucked in fresh air. Opening my eyes, I looked around; surely all my friends would cheer at my accomplishment. Nope. They hadn't seen it; they were either jumping themselves or in the process of swimming to shore to climb out for their next jump. The teens didn't care. Heck, they didn't even bother to check to see if I was out of the way before they jumped! Or, maybe they did see me, and were actually aiming for me. Teenagers back then seemed especially mean. Huh, guess they haven't really changed?
Naturally, I jumped again, and again - and again. By the time I got home, I was beat, and I truly slept that night! After that, jumping from Second Bridge became a regular part of our beach-going activities. And, I did notice that my hang time seem it increase.
Over time, I introduced my nieces and nephews to jumping from the bridge, but I eventually had to give it up. I finally understood why no one older than a teenager or young adult jumped from there. As you get older and get you, well, ah, "middle-aged spread," you tend to get to be too, well, er, big to jump from the bridge.
When I jumped and hit bottom, I knew that my time had come. As they say, "All good things much come to an end."
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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