I made my first jump when I was ten. I was lucky that time, I was looking at a scrapbook of memories my mom had put together for my birthday, one with empty pages at the back that I would fill in on my own. I was spending a leisurely afternoon going over the pages and remembering the greatest events of my life as yet—focusing on a joint birthday party in my best friend’s backyard.
Before I knew what happened—I was there. Tumbling knees over shoulders and bruising my elbow on the foot of the big Oak behind Kacey’s window.
I freaked out, but ran home—Kacey lived just a block and a half away. I snuck into my own backyard, then knocked on the door, making a ruckus so that someone would let me in, since I knew it was locked. Mom gave me a raised-eyebrow and a “I thought you were in your room.” I lied and told her that I’d gone out to play with our dog, Flea, but locked myself out.
I ran up to my room and shut the scrapbook, hiding it under my bed. I didn’t touch it for months, but eventually I couldn’t stand hurting Mom’s feelings when she asked about it.
My second jump was not lucky at all. I was twelve, and my aunt had sent me a postcard from Italy. I was reading the back of it and I turned it over to look at the picture of ran my fingertips over the picture of the Colosseum, all lovely ruin and decay—suddenly I was pitching forward again, and this time the sun disappeared and I scratched up my palms and my arms on a dirt ground.
I lay on the ground for whole minutes with my eyes screwed shut, praying that I was dreaming and pinching myself as hard as I could manage. When I looked up, though, I was standing at the foot of the famous ruin, illuminated in a 20th century glory.
I knew then that it was the picture that had done it. But I was alone in a foreign country, in the middle of the night. It took me hours to find someone who could understand English, and much longer to get my hands on a picture of a place in the U.S. Anywhere would do, if I could just control it, if I could do it on my own…
Eventually I made it understood what I wanted, though I think the woman talking to me in broken English thought I wanted it as a comfort—she was getting impatient with me, as I couldn’t tell her where my parents were, or how I’d gotten where I had.
Someone had produced a travel brochure from a hotel lobby that had New York’s shining lights on it. I asked to use the restroom, but kept the brochure tight in my hand. As soon as I was alone, I stared at the picture as hard as I could, but nothing happened. I was so tired and scared and desperate that I started to cry—then I remembered that I’d been stroking the picture on the postcard, and hesitantly, I caressed my fingers against the glossy paper.
With a feeling of joy I fell forward, finding myself in Times Square. The joy lasted for about seven seconds, until I realized I was still over an hour from my home in Bridgeport, and the night that had taken me so by surprise in Italy had now fallen naturally back home.
I knew, too, that Times Square probably wasn’t the safest place in the world to be at night, when you’re a twelve-year-old girl, all by yourself.
I wandered around for a little bit, wondering if I should go to the police or something, and have my parents make the hour-and-a-half drive to pick me up. My stomach—already grumbling with hunger—twisted with guilt. I’d been missing for hours now. My mom had to be freaking out.
Then I saw something rustling on the street. It was half a newspaper. Suddenly I got an idea. Bridgeport had just had a major fire—some old historic building had been completely destroyed, it was all over the news. I ran to the paper and snatched it up, disappointment sharp in my chest when there were no pictures—just classifieds.
I had hope, though. I had a direction to go in, now. I walked further, my feet starting to ache, my eyes scanning for newspapers. I found a newspaper stand, and sure enough—there was a picture of the Bridgeport fire. The newspaper was behind glass, though, and I had nothing to buy its freedom. I stroked my fingers against the glass, hopefully, but nothing happened.
I looked all around for change. Maybe someone had dropped something. But I didn’t want to get too far from the newspaper stand, and nothing was in sight. If only I could find one of the little booths that sold newspapers… then I wouldn’t have to buy one. I would have to disappear right in front of people, though, and that made me nervous.
What seemed like an n older man came by and dropped a few coins into the little box, pulling the glass open. I couldn’t help rushing towards him.
He gave me a sharp look. “Shouldn’t you be home by now, kid?”
“I need one of those newspapers,” I said, desperation making me bolder than usual.
“You do, do ya? Why don’t you buy your own?”
“No money. Sir, if you’d help me, I’d do anything…”
He raised an eyebrow. “You’d better not go around saying stuff like that, not in this city,” he said, but then he took a closer look at me, and his face softened a bit. He looked quite nice when it did. “Here, take this and I’ll buy another. And get home, scat,” he said, turning his back on me and dropping another few coins into the stand.
I was so flummoxed that I didn’t even think to say thank you, something I still feel sorry for. I ducked into the closest alley I could, and focused on the image of the burnt remains, lightly running my fingers over the paper.
Another rough fall, and I was just across town from home. I was so tired, though. It was the middle of the night—again—and I’d been dealing with fear and desperation for nearly half a day straight.
I started walking in the direction that I thought led home, keeping an eye open for payphones, so I could call home collect, but I hadn’t gone far before a police car slowed down next to me, the window opening.
“Are you Allison Sinclair?” a young officer in the passenger seat asked me.
Wearily, I rubbed my face and nodded, too tired to even be surprised that they knew who I was.
Relief washed over the young man’s face, and he put on a stern look for me. “Did you run away from home today?”
For some reason, the accusation hurt, and instead of saying anything, I just broke into tears.
The officer stepped out of the car and wrapped an arm around my shoulders in a gentle embrace. “Hey now, it’s okay. Your parents have been really worried about you, though. Let’s get you home.”
My house was fully lit when we got there, and my mom ran out to meet me, grabbing me up in a hug as she cried and yelled and generally made a fuss over me. I was so tired that they let me go to bed after not too long, and I hadn’t stopped crying since the officer found me. I was asleep almost too fast to appreciate that I was home, but my dreams were full of strange places and people who didn’t understand me.
I tried telling mom what happened, but it just got her more and more upset, and eventually I gave up.
It was a few years before I jumped again. It helped knowing that I knew what to do now, but I was panicky around pictures in general. When I was seventeen, though, I found a polaroid camera at an old garage sale. The first thing I did was take a picture of my bedroom, and put it in my wallet.
Since then, I’ve been jumping all the time.