February 18th, 2008

little blue dog

my brother

Ten years ago Jesus and I jumped naked into a freezing lake.

I was living in Reno at the time, and some friends and I were lured by uncharacteristically sunny President's Day weather up to Tahoe for a day hike. My friend Christian (given name Jesus, no kidding), an avid outdoorsman, found a trail for the four of us to follow to a lightly-forested clearing a stone's throw away from an outcropping of large, white boulders at the water's edge.

It wasn't overly-strenuous, but Christian's girlfriend and our mutual friend who had joined us were a little winded by the steep hike down from the car, so he and I continued alone over to the rocks, and jumped around for a bit before sitting down to soak up the sun. We were perspiring; it must have been in the high 60s or even 70s, comparatively tropical considering the damp grayness characteristic of the season. The sky was an unbroken dome of light blue, and the boulders were brilliant against the dark green-blue of the lake. In between, the horizon was evergreens, rocks, and snow.

"God," I said, "I could almost go for a swim out there."

After a minute, Christian said "Let's do it."

I looked at him, squinting. "No trunks, no towels."

"Come on," he said. "Man and nature in the purest sense. We'll remember it for the rest of our lives."

So we stood up and found a suitable jumping point about five feet above the water. We looked at each other for a second, then stripped down to nothing, stood there waiting to see if we were both up for the challenge, decided we were, counted to three, and jumped.

When I hit the water, it was as if someone gave me a mighty whack on the back with the flat of an oar, knocking the wind completely out of me. After a panicked second or two, my head broke the surface and I gasped for breath, then started whooping, I don't know why, out of fear, out of exhilaration. My two thoughts were "OH MY GOD I DID IT!" and "I WILL PROBABLY DIE TODAY."

I looked around to find Christian in similar circumstances, but with a huge grin on his face. Holy crap, I thought, as I noticed that I couldn't actually feel my limbs, that was really, really dumb. I yelped out "Hey! You! OK!" to Christian, and he gave me a thumbs-up and then pointed to the rocks. I looked down in the water to make sure my legs and arms were actually moving, then started a frozen dog-paddle to the nearest boulder.

Somehow, we clambered up, hooting and swearing the entire time. We jumped around for a minute to make sure our blood was circulating, and then we sat down on a flat rock to let the sun dry us off. We waved at a few folks who passed by in motorboats, laughing and shivering, skin numb, genitals shriveled, adrenaline rushing.

Our whooping drew the attention of the other two in our group, who struggled over to the rocks to find us, still dripping, pulling our clothes back on and laughing to ourselves with bravado, accomplishment, or sheer relief. He and I were ecstatic for the rest of the day. We talk about this day just about every time we hang out, which is far too seldom.