NPR logo

Modern Love: What It's Like To Fall, Quite Literally, In Love

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/469383375/469383376" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Modern Love: What It's Like To Fall, Quite Literally, In Love

U.S.

Modern Love: What It's Like To Fall, Quite Literally, In Love

Modern Love: What It's Like To Fall, Quite Literally, In Love

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/469383375/469383376" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Most people remember the first time they fall in love. In this excerpt from "Modern Love: The Podcast," the author writes about the actual fall that marked her first love.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now for a story about falling in love, and not just figuratively. In 2012, Natalie Lindeman went on a first date and she fell a hundred feet down a mountainside into a canyon. Lindeman wrote about her date, that fall and what happened next in an essay for the popular New York Times Sunday column "Modern Love." Now, NPR member station WBUR and The New York Times have collaborated to produce "Modern Love: The Podcast," which turns those columns into an experience for the ear.

Here, actor Dakota Fanning reads Natalie Lindeman's essay, "The Plunge."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAKOTA FANNING: (Reading) Last summer, I fell 100 feet into one of the steepest canyons in the United States. After tumbling 75 feet down the near-vertical canyon side, I dropped another 25 feet in freefall, landing in a dry stream bed between granite boulders.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FANNING: (Reading) I have always loved falling. When I was 3, my favorite game was mantle jumping. My dad would place me on the mantle, steady me and step back. I'd push off and fall for that perfect rush of a second before he caught me, swinging me to the ground. In high school, I found a teenage version of mantle jumping by leaping off high, rocky cliffs with my friends into the ocean below. I loved the way the wind whistled in my ears, making me feel so alive. Yet if I was passionate about adventure, I was cautious about passion. A boyfriend would only slow me down.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FANNING: (Reading) Then near the end of my junior year of high school, a senior named Wilder asked me to prom, and I said yes. Right after I said yes though, my heart started pounding and I raced into an empty classroom to breathe for a minute alone. The smile on my face was so big it hurt. I was determined to keep things casual as we headed out on our first real date.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FANNING: (Reading) To escape the early summer heat, we decided to hike the sage-lined trail to the waterfall in Eaton Canyon. Dozens of hikers were already splashing in the pool when college-age hiker asked if we had heard of the second waterfall only a mile beyond. Although the path was unmarked, we tramped another 20 minutes up the steep incline and found it, beautiful and isolated. It was so easy to be with him. We were coming around a curve in the canyon wall, hurrying to get back while it was still light. Wilder went first, searching for notches and footholds, finally making it around. Then I went, feeling for handholds, my face inches from the rock. I traced to where he had grasped, reaching back with my left foot, searching for the ledge. And suddenly, I wasn't holding onto anything. Sandy grit was skittering down the mountain alongside me. I was falling.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FANNING: (Reading) I woke up to the sound of helicopter blades. A cable carried me into the air. It struck me; I had just fallen, and now they were taking me up even higher. My dad found me in the too-bright emergency room and tried to hold my hands, but they were a bloody mess like the rest of me. Wilder's in the waiting room, he said. Nurses cut away my clothes with giant scissors and wiped the dirt and blood from my body. I heard scattered phrases - 100 feet, fractured vertebrae, a miracle. Wilder visited as soon as he was allowed. You're off the hook, I said. What do you mean, he asked? I explained in my drugged speech that he didn't have to come to the hospital or hang out with a broken girl all summer. No guilt. I'd call him when I was healed and back to normal. He stayed with me until a nurse kicked him out.

Five days later, I was home. Doctors said I would have to wear a corset-like brace from my hips to my neck for eight to 12 weeks, and then we could talk about recuperation. Sitting up for 20 minutes exhausted me, and I could barely move without wincing in pain.

Wilder kept visiting, and it scared the hell out of me. I fought to look like the girl he had asked to prom. I looked as if I had been mauled by a tiger, but the brace covered most of it. I'd laugh, roll out of bed and walk around as if keeping in constant motion would prove I was strong, independent and unhurt. I figured he'd leave while I slept, but I'd doze off listening to him playing basketball with my little brother and when I'd wake up, he'd be eating dinner with my family.

Sometimes I think my body saved itself that day by learning to surrender, that those years of falling prepared me to relax into the 100-foot plunge. But it was weeks after the fall before I could truly let go. I thought I could use my injuries as an excuse to push Wilder away. I thought I could forget the look on his face as I fell and ignore the terrified feeling of longing in my chest. But I couldn't. Maybe it was the way he said, I'd rather spend my summer with you than any other girl. Maybe it was how being around him made me forget the brace and the wounds, made me feel whole and unbroken. Finally, surrender became not just inevitable but exhilarating. I didn't want to hold onto anything anymore. I wanted to fall, and I already had. And I knew that this time, too, I would be OK.

MARTIN: That was Dakota Fanning reading Natalie Lindeman's essay, "The Plunge," for WBUR and The New York Times's "Modern Love: The Podcast."

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.