Tuesday, October 11, 2011
I was 16 and living in New Mexico, the Tularosa Basin to be specific. Alamogordo to be even more specific. Located about an hour and a half from the border of Mexico, fifteen minutes from White Sands. Winter had just ended, but it wasn't quite spring. New Mexico has strange seasons, there is often a dead period between seasons, where nothing really happens.
I was a junior in high school. I had my hair short and dyed a rusty color. I wore tons of polyester. Eric and I had already been a couple for a few months, an eternity in the high school romance department. We had become inseparable in a few short months as we had gone through some life changing events together in rapid succession. We were newly in love.
We had to meet in the parking lot of the fairgrounds early in the morning. I would like to say that it was about 6am. I remember that the sun hadn't yet risen above the mountain tops. The sky was light, the air was cool. Eric and I arrived in his white Toyota truck, a junker that Eric still has fond memories of; mostly I remember a gear shift that had to be held in place when it was in first and third gear. I was wearing a maroon vintage Adidas jacket that Eric had lent to me, it made me feel like a cool girlfriend.
The owner of the balloon was a member of my father's church. He had offered us a ride, for free, for fun! I was, still am, nervous about heights, but I couldn't let a stupid thing like that get in the way of such a unique opportunity. The balloon was set up and ready to go in no time. Besides the owner of the balloon there were 4 of us, two in a ground crew and two in the balloon. Eric and I had "helped" prep the balloon and soon it was time to go.
I remember the sound of the fire, the feel of the basket. Soon the ground fell off and I was up in the air, flying above the town. I had no fear. How could I? It was all so serene, so beautiful. Conversation mostly fell off as we looked out on our town. Occasionally the silence was punctuated by the blast of fire or the creak of the basket. The town was so small, there was this bigger world at large. I knew it. I felt it. I had been living on the edge of it, of the sense that there was more to come. So I just basked in the moment as the sun rose over the mountains, flooding Tularosa Basin with golden light. I shed my jacket as the air warmed. In the distance I could see the white gypsum desert that we knew as white sands, and beyond that the purple peaks near Las Cruces.
Soon it was over, the basket landed in a field outside of town, tipping over slightly, there was some awkward closeness as we all tumbled around in the basket and crawled out onto the dried grass of the field. When we were done we watched the balloon sadly deflate and we helped to stow it away, our adventure was over before 10am. We went out for coffee and on with our day. If you had seen us on that day, you would never have guessed it, but we had seen the world from a totally different perspective.