That’s what life’s like, you don’t really make choices. The whole thing terrified me but I loved her. Mathilde adored canyoning, she spent her Sundays and vacations roped up, climbing the steep beds of mountain torrents, jumping from basin to basin and from the tops of the dizzyingly high promontories under the admiring gaze of a gang of boys overacting to attract her attention. Frolicking about in the icy water, diving into stone basins that could break her neck, surging out into the sunlight with a smile on her lips. She was the central attraction of this dangerous aquatic world. And I loved her and was dragging my feet to follow that crowd. I jumped fine into a few training pools, I had a go at the swan dive, but I looked like a clumsy angel falling from the sky. I dropped like a ripe fruit and Mathilde did not even look at me.
A little Jiminy Cricket voice murmured in my ear, “If you love her as much as you think you do, you coward, you must perform some feat, a bigger jump, higher than the others, and amaze that load of pretentious losers.”
I had bought a navy blue suit to look like a dolphin, a cagoule with my name on it so she would recognise me, gloves and two little flippers, and dragonfly glasses. I read and reread the canyoning manual, I learned the jumping and landing positions, and the safety rules. In my room, all alone in my seduction costume, I trained myself to twist my body as prescribed, curling up to protect my fall and I was beginning to like it more and more. Until eventually I was ready to ignore my terror, and risk my life for her to look at me, admire me and love me. I was ready to do more than the others, to take every risk. From the very top of an almost vertical slide carved out by centuries of water cascading through the granite of the mountain, the lovelorn dolphin that I was looked down beneath his feet at a basin of clear water that appeared minuscule. My rivals, whose fear I could sense, were hesitating, fooling around, pushing each other, but remained lined up like swallows on the stone lip where we were perched.
Then I jumped, and dived. God, destiny or love for Mathilde could make of me what they would. I was no longer nothing, a feather, a pebble, the cold air whistled past my ears, my dragonfly eyes saw the sky spinning round. A slap, my breath taken away, I came back up to the surface, some flapping of my flippers and I came out onto gravel at the edge of the pool. Way up above, yesterday’s champions watched me in silence, surprised by what I had done.
The monitor helped me out of the water, he also looked surprised. But all that meant nothing to me. I gasped at him, “Where is Mathilde?”
He replied as if it was of no consequence.
“She didn’t come today...”
Translated by Wendy Cross