Two mates through parallel circumstance, we measured our life by the minute; from four kilometers over the earth, smoothly sliding from the side of a perfectly good airplane into the open air, cameras rolling and capturing the exultation of our friends. Sixty seconds later, the cacophony of freefall became the serenity of parachute flight, and with attempted poise and grace we would carve a brilliant scythe through the air to the ground; pack, emplane, repeat. Always one precious minute; years of practice, thousands of repetitions.
Times change, and my passion took me interstate to new adventures. But we looked for opportunities to savour our interests together, once sharing accommodation as we competed against each other and our compatriots. This competition over, and with time on our hands, we shared a leisurely drive to the airport.
Noting a shakiness in his voice and mindful of his diabetes, we agreed to stop for some cheap carbohydrates and soft drink. A minute later, I’d paid for the soft drink and returned – but he had involuntarily abandoned the search for his Insulin, and was writhing by the car in a full-blown “hypo” – a diabetic seizure. Heart pounding, I did the best my first aid allowed; eventually, the hastily summonsed paramedics releasing us to go about our business.
Time still on our side, we pulled up early in the departures lane at the airport, grabbed his luggage and we shared a few moments together on the pavement. Suddenly, a security guard emerged from the shadows of the lonely terminal and demanded we move on – quoting a new “three minute” security rule. We simultaneously looked to one end of the vacant car park; then the other, even breaking into laughter as one. But seldom troublemakers, we hugged, and separated.
Weeks later, he was gone. His cranky pancreas failed him for the last time, and he died alone from the malaise which brought such fright to our last trip together.
For an age afterwards, I cursed in anguish at our last stop together being abbreviated by the seemingly senseless enforcement of security policy. But time has assuaged my grief, and those memories now span our lives together, not the crudely shortened moment by the departure terminal together.
And in that world where we chose to risk our lives one minute at a time, I know now that our last meeting spanned three lifetimes.