Narrative-Nonfiction goes under many names, including creative nonfiction, literary journalism, and fact-based storytelling. Please read more about through the links provided. There is so much more to it than the I-Novel. How in the world am I going to complete a creative non-fiction story? I am going to touch on something I did as a teen. Looking back it was stupid and dangerous but what a thrill it was. I had to do some real research into the area and what actually happened but I look forward to the trip down stupidity lane impressing boys and throwing caution to the wind.
It was a particular hot sunny day in the summer of ’97. I just suffered a miscarriage due to now permanent damage I sustained between my mother and myself. My mother had sent me back to my dad because I rebelled to the point law enforcement was involved and they gave my mother two choices: 1-Send me to jail or 2-Send me to my father. She sent me back to my dad both of us unknowing of the life that grew inside. Arriving back home I learned that I was pregnant and my while my aunt prepared my dad for news I had to be the one to tell him. He blurted it out before I could. We both cried and prepared for the future. He was even more supportive through the losing the baby.
After my body healed I wanted to feel adventure, adrenaline, danger, or a combination of all three. I should have known that even though my body was healed my soul wasn’t. My father knew but also was going to let me make any stupid decisions that I needed to make hoping I would be his whole little girl again. I was outside shooting hoops when my friends Alvin and Chuck pulled in the driveway. I had just started seeing Chuck. He knew I was pregnant when we started dating, he also knew I lost the baby. I had ignored him for over a month and out of nowhere, he showed up. It was really Alvin that wanted to date me but he was ok with playing second fiddle.
‘Hey Jo, want to go bridge jumping?
‘Yeah, where is this?’ I said not looking at Chuck, tossing the ball. All you heard was the ball swooshing through the net.
‘Nice shot Jo,’ Alvin said walking up and giving me a hug. ‘How are you doing?’ He whispered in my ear.
‘I’m doing ok, just bored.’ The truth was, I was heartbroken.
‘Hop in the car. We are going to jump the Sabine River bridge.’
My father would tell me stories of bodies being found in the river or on the shore. ‘It’s a good dumping spot,’ he would tell me. I never asked how he knew. The river also has a rich history involving Native Americans.
‘I’ll jump it,’ I said climbing in the front set. My cramps were awful but I wasn’t going to take any pain pills. I wanted a clear head. I enjoyed the warm air rushing in the car and through my hair. Chuck took us down a back road then turned down a dirt road. He pulled over to the shoulder and I stepped out of the car into the knee-high grass, kicking up grasshoppers the size of my hand. Our feet crunch through the dirt and gravel as we approached the bridge. It looked so small until I was standing on it.
‘You know, you have to jump it just right. You need to go between the concrete pillars. If you go too far in either direction you will land on the concrete and shove your legs through your neck. If you do survive the erroneous judgment you would be paralyzed. A few years ago a boy jumped the bridge and wasn’t centered enough and the fire department had to pull his body out,’ Chuck told me as I looked over the edge. I just stared down tuning out everything else. The only sound was the water running underneath me. I was completely zoned out when a blur flew over the edge. I startled and stepped back. I looked over my shoulder and Alvin was taking off his shirt and kicking off his shoes and sock, only leaving his jeans on. I looked over the edge and seen Chuck coming to the surface.
‘You don’t have to do this. You’ve been through so much. No one is going to think any less of you. Jo, I was really worried about you. I wanted to come see you but your dad said you were sleeping or resting,’ Alvin explained with a caring look on his face. ‘Do you ever think you would want to be with a girl that is already ruined?’ I asked referring to me not being a virgin and broken on the inside. ‘Jo, I want to be with you because of the person you are. Chuck wants to be with you because he knows you aren’t a virgin.’ This is something I already figured out. Alvin squeezed my hand and took a good 5-foot running start and vanished over the side. I stared down at the water holding my breath until I seen Alvin break to the surface. I exhaled knowing I could hold my breath as long as he did. I watched as the boys started goofing around then Chuck starting baiting me, daring me to make the jump. ‘What Jo, you’re afraid of heights or death. Just go wait in the car like a little girl.
Tears welled in my eyes. I wasn’t crying because he hurt my feelings. I was crying over the loss I’ve experienced, the frustration that there was nothing I could do, the failure of not waiting until I was married, for the pain I caused my father. I was a failure. I didn’t go and sit in the car. I didn’t remove any clothes. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t take a running start. I stepped off the bridge. Those few seconds of me falling was the most freeing moment in my life. I didn’t regret anything. If I died I would be ok. If I survived I would be ok. My freefalling off the bridge was blowing away my grief. I was brought back to reality when I hit the water. I didn’t even pay attention that I needed to hold my breath. I managed to do so right before my head went under without taking the deep breath that was needed. I fell so deep into the murky darkness. The cold water washing my sins and guilt away. I looked over and seen that I was literally 3 feet from the pillar. It was so surreal to be able to see how close to death I actually was.
I felt the burning pain in my chest reminding me that my oxygen level was low and needed to get to the surface to take a breath. I kicked and used my arms to launch myself up towards the light. I felt that when I break through the surface of the water I was starting a new chapter in my life. Alvin was the first one to me and held me up so I could breathe. Chuck was laughing and pushed Alvin away.
‘I knew you couldn’t resist the dare.’ I pushed him away.
‘You teased me and told me to go sit in the car like a little girl. Fact, I’m not afraid of death. I have experienced it and wished for it all in one month. I’m not a little girl because of my loss. I’m not afraid of heights because I just jumped. What I am not, is your girlfriend.’ I swam to the river bank with Alvin hot on my heels.
‘Jo, are you ok?’ He asked.
‘I’m fine. Can you take me home?’
‘I sure will. We’re close to Chuck’s house. He can walk. Let’s get you home and in bed.’ Alvin opened the car door for me and handed me his shirt through the window to change in to. Like a gentleman, he waited at the back of the car digging in the trunk for another shirt. ‘Ok,’ I hollered. He walked around and handed me a pair of wrestling shorts. ‘Take off your wet clothes and wear these. I also have a blanket for you.’ Again Alvin waited at the back of the car. I was silent all the way home.
When we pulled into the driveway my dad was waiting for me along with two of my uncles. ‘Jo, are you ok?’ I ignored my dad and went to my room. I could overhear Alvin telling my dad what had happened and asked if he could sit with me through the night. I guess my father reluctantly agreed because when I came to an hour later Alvin was sitting next to me in a chair. It was dinner time and Alvin picked up a plate that my father had made for me.
‘Hi there. You’re dad said I could stay if it’s ok with you?’ I nodded that it was ok. He had tucked me in bed and I curled the blankets tighter around me. ‘I hope you’re hungry. You’re dad and uncles made smoked brisket and baked taters.’ I sat up and took the plate.
‘Can I ask you a question?’ Alvin asked leaning forward. ‘Please tell me the truth. Were you wanting to die? I knew how far over you were when you jumped. I thought I was going to have to have a different conversation with your dad.’ I looked down at my plate pushing the meat around with my fork. ‘Alvin, at that moment I didn’t care what happened to me either way. Now, I care. Will that answer do?’ I asked in return.
‘Ok Jo. I can accept that. I’m here when you need me.’ I slowly ate and asked, ‘Alvin, can we take it slow?’