A gymnastics leap across the padded floor, pink and light blue leotard, the squeak of springs from the trampolines pulsing in the background. It smells like sweat and powder. Wide open cinderblock paradise, pink scrunchie pulled into dirty blonde ponytail, she confidently waltzes to the top of the balance beam. Could-be 1986 Olympic champion, she looks the part.
I tumble out of bed to face cheap carpet floor, startled by my abrupt transition into waking life. Saves The Day song on In Reverie. One of my absolute favorites.
But this past gymnast raises her arms, counts to herself in her head and takes two tentative steps before cartwheeling alone the balance beam. She cannot get enough, running over to the high bar and wringing herself out, rotating over and over like she is her own planet. She is a star. No one watches. No one notices, but she beams bright. If one would cast a glance, they would be absorbed by her beauty in motion. Handsprings on the blue mat, forward roll tumble, tucked chin, and launching forward. Intentional. Daylight dream ender – unintentional.
Unconditional. A song by The Bravery. One of my favorites. Tony Hawk Soundtrack. My youth; Was it wasted? Simple syrup clarity, sticky but worry-free. PSE&G. Who powers it all? Who can I call to complain? Is it even worth it?
An animator, an artist sketches in pencil of that gymnast tumbling, going through the motions one frame at a time. He is older and grey, absorbed in this task. The girl is faceless and silhouetted. I think I’ve seen her on a school handout advertising Tumbling. But I opted for soccer instead, even though I hated it. No one really talks about the art of fitting it and how it effects us our whole lives.
We all tumble through life, some with more enthusiasm than others. For some it’s more accidental. There’s no way we walk the balance beam without a misstep or mistake. Especially when our bodies are not built for that environment. It’s hard, it’s really tough.
I take the smooth paper between my hands and read it. It’s trash; terrible, horrible, I can’t stand it anymore. I crumple it up so it becomes rough and compact, wrinkling its contents, squeezing it in between my angry hands. I dominate over this piece of paper, this piece of nothing. But then – regret, remorse, doubt. I take this crumpled ball and start to slowly unravel it. Now it’s a leathery texture, wrinkled and worn like an old pirate’s map. Give it a couple more years and it will yellow and fade like one. I sigh. Smooth it out. Maybe it’s not all that bad. A bad grade, a letter to a friend, a letter to a lover, a telegram that someone’s just died. A note you weren’t supposed to find, written about you. And not so nice things. I am in an empty classroom with open windows. It is a 0% humidity spring day. The kids are playing at recess outside. I’m old enough to be their teacher, but insecure enough to be outside with them. I miss the smell and feel of empty classrooms. It’s a private moment that will be.
Small little hours ticking by the back of my hand in tennis back and forth hearing the grunts of players and cries of defeat as shields come crashing down on rainy Normandy beaches so many years ago. Ages of death and defeat and peat and freshly mown grass. Holding a moment in now. Letting it out so it completes a cycle of photosynthesis and evaporation and precipitation and gets its day on the periodic table of elements. Class then was only an hour, maybe 45 minutes. Was it ever embraced? Was it only dreaded? I’m not sure I can’t remember. All I know is an hour ago I was somewhere else. Confined in the blissful suspension of time. Gravity is suspended and it all just hangs there, hangs out. Jackie Wilson Said to just be chill. Freezing hours melt into minutes and evaporate, catapult up into the clouds and hug the Sun. The light is so bright and hot that the molecules transform on impact. I am transforming now. We are all in a state of transforming. Hours grow mold into days, weeks, years. But if time is a social construct, maybe we can take the 2x4s of our life, take out the nails connecting it to everything else and burn the wood to keep our soul warm. And have our anxiety evaporate on impact like those molecules.
Do you know what it’s like to be hungry late at night in the dark? Eyeballs peeled open at the sound of your stomach rumbling like a thundersheet? Like the palpitations of Eric Whitacre’s Cloudburst? The feeling of that rumble is like drilling through a pond; It ripples beyond the stomach so that you feel the tingle in your hands and chest. All encompassing compass, pointing North to your hunger. In past lifetimes, I have dipped my hand into wicker baskets of grain, cupped the spheres of wheat and barley, raised that promise of Lady Liberty herself, and watched those little hardened pieces fall one by one back into the basket. And in this moment I am a hourglass, Time herself. The pieces of hardened grain that trickle out of my raised palm each make a sound, making contact with their brothers and sisters, safe at home in their basket. This grain was harvested by my ancestors, cooked by my ancestors, fed.
salt flats. mal blum and Peruvian delights. Joseph Smith smoking under Utah’s gaze. Starlight bound somehow after death knowing nothing but this. Eyeglasses in circular frames watching clocks tick. Granules and molecules watching Magic School Bus reruns on TV. Entertainment and science with minimal effort. SuperPretzel daydream treats with yellow mustard. Baseball game wooden baseball bat cracks and cheers. Two glasses clinking. Satisfying sensation that can become overpowering. Stick out your tongue. Let me watch the snowflakes melt. Let me see your green eyes gazing into my own. Hold my gaze to see your winter hat frame your face. Your freckles almost don’t seem real, but painted on my some Monet-aspiring artist. Palette in frame, sugar in glass. Don’t you wanna know who killed her? Following clues, tasting iron on blood, salt in fever. Basic building blocks of life. Carbon. You can smell it. Decay and earth, tones of God. Washing your brain is making up your mind.