Flying in Rope

23 Feb

By Caity Henderson
8th Grade

Perhaps I was not made to be sad. Tears felt foreign on my young face, tracing new patterns along my cheeks – the wrong patterns. I couldn’t take the feeling of perpetual grief my mother experienced, so I vowed to fly. I longed to grow wings and take to the sky, watching the world below like Superwoman, waiting to drop down and save the world. I suppose it was good in theory, but I had no idea how much the cape weighed in my small hands. I couldn’t even save my mother from her own sadness. I couldn’t even save myself. I was still stuck firmly on the ground, but that didn’t stop me from trying. I needed to break my shackles with earth and take to the sky, not as a bird or a plane, but as a new person.

My father used to love the sky. He would spend hours tracing the clouds with his pointer finger, imagining what it would be like to walk on them, imagining what it would be like to fly. To my father, there was nothing more magical than the light blue of the sky. I watched him gaze endlessly at it, as if looking for some veil of obscurity separating him from his beloved sky. Sometimes I thought he loved the sky more than he loved me. He wanted to grow wings and take to his real home. Towards the end of his life, that was all he really knew. He didn’t belong on Bridge Street, nor did he belong anywhere in Sargentville, the neighboring town. He knew he would make his footsteps on the clouds and paint the sky black at night, and then maybe he could finally say, “Yes, this is where I belong. This is home.”

One terrible night, he finally made it there. My mother told me he had left, but I was no imbecile. I knew she meant he finally put all the silent yearning in his eyes to good use. I wanted to believe that he had merely sprouted wings made of Saturn’s Rings and left to cradle the stars in the night sky, but I knew the truth went something like this:

At about midnight, my father took the rope out of his closet. He looked to the sky, ready to leave. He did not look at his wife. He did not look at me. He attached it to a nail hanging from the ceiling. He tied the rope around his neck, smelling the Maine breeze and mother’s perfume. He probably saw her, my mother, but that didn’t stop him from dying. He didn’t love her more than his beloved sky. Yeah. That’s how he did it.

I suppose I failed him. I couldn’t make him stay with me. I couldn’t make him stick around long enough to walk me down the aisle or drive me to my first job. No. I guess I was never good enough for him. Who can ever live up to the sky when they have no wings to fly?

I failed my mother too. I could never make him love her, nor could I make her stop loving him. I couldn’t erase the bruises on her face or the angry words he shouted. By that time, he was no longer the man to write her love letters on trees and hold her when she cried. I guess that part of my father got lost somewhere in the sky. I couldn’t erase the tears from her face. I couldn’t erase the image of him hanging from the ceiling like an angel, a halo of rope around his head. I was a burden, one more being to feed. She couldn’t leave because of me. I was her shackles. Sometimes I thought the tears running down her face were little pieces of me, a reminder of what I could never give her.

So what could I do? I was a failure with a mother clothed in misery and a father hanging from the ceiling of my mind. I could fly, or that’s what I told myself. Every day, I tried to move my arms fast enough to catch the wind and find those pieces of my father and pieces of my mother lost somewhere in the blue. Every day, I found the forces of gravity, forever pulling me back down to the ground. I climbed trees and skipped because I needed to get that much farther off the ground. I suppose I knew that I didn’t belong here either, stuck in this town, stuck in this life. It was all so sticky.

July 26 was especially hard after that. No matter how blue the sky was a darkness lingered inside of my heart. No matter how high off the ground I got, I still felt that undeniable sinking in my core, eating me from the inside out.

I skipped across the street, smiling and waving to Mr. Lance in a desperate attempt to lift the burden of grief off my shoulders. I smelled the sea breeze and the boat oil. Even my favorite smell in the world couldn’t lift me from the funk.

My mother followed close behind me. She too knew what day it was. She never forgot. I could’ve sworn there was a little chalkboard in her head, marking off the days until July 26, the anniversary of his death. I did not look into her eyes, but I knew what I would find if I did: tears. She couldn’t hold it in that day. A black veil covered her face in an attempt to alienate herself even further from the world. After the sadness had overtaken his eyes, she’d stopped smiling and laughing. Perhaps she’d thought he would love her again if she was sad like him, but everyone knows two rights don’t make a wrong. Two tears don’t make true love.

“Lydia, for God’s sake walk like a lady,” she muttered through her veil, her fatigue all but hidden.

I skipped higher, determined to show her my independence. Stubborn defiance spread across my face.

“Now listen to me young lady, you follow my rules,” she whispered between her clenched teeth, anger burning through her veil.

“No. Daddy would’ve let me skip,” I said simply.

She lifted her veil to reveal her face, distorted in anger. “Your father is gone! He will never come back! You never saw him hanging from the ceiling like a rag-doll, but I did. I saw it all. He left us. He is dead. D-E-A-D, dead.”

Her words hit me – hard – but I had no time to catch my breath. My eyes remained locked on hers. “He loved me,” I said, “He loved me.”

“He never loved you! You trapped him in the marriage he never wanted. You forced him to provide for a family. He was running from you! Did you ever trick yourself into believing it was me he was running from? That it was him? Do not be duped young lady. He never loved you one ounce. You are the rope around his neck.”

Her words permeated through my nervous system like boiling water, leaving every organ ready to fight with a plethora of comebacks. Tears rolled down my face. Her words ran back in my head. He was running from you. He was running from you. You are the rope. You are the rope. “I wish it was you!” I screamed, “I wish you were gone and he was here with me!”

Her face burned in my mind, her hand frozen in midair holding her veil. Her blue eyes filled with tears. Her mouth hung open in one word: “Love.” Love now hanging in the air to crash on the ground. I looked into her face and saw my own. Her pinkish cheeks, her slim nose, her black hair, every part of her was me. I was her daughter. We loved each other so much we killed each other.

That night, I packed my bags and boarded a train to New Hampshire to live with my aunt. I broke my ties with my own mother and got off that block, out of that state. I wanted to find home. Where is my home?

I don’t want to fly anymore. Merely taking my feet of the ground makes my heart beat fast, like the frantic flapping of a moth’s wings, desperate for the light. Flying leaves too many people behind broken. That is the one thing my father taught me. My father, who never loved me. I have set fire to my family, to my own life. Ashes run through my hands like feathers, the feathers of the wings I once dreamed of. Maybe I was born to hurt, born to burn, but I know one thing: I was not born to fly.

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