by JO JO
A story about finding and accepting yourself
|It was a race. It was always a race. The soft patter of footsteps sounded over freshly mown grass. I was last. I was always last. I bit my tongue and gained speed- today I was not losing.
The black net of the trampoline loomed in front of me, blocking the garden with its thick meshed coating. I felt the cold hard elbow of my friend, she grinned and stuck her tongue out, eyes squinting against the haze of the sun. Distance chatters of other children came behind her as she stood looking at me expectantly.
“Come on slow poke. Last one’s the rotten egg!” She taunted already climbing the plastic ladder to the trampoline.
That did it. I scrambled up with her. Pushing, shoving and grunting. With surprising agility, she flounced up and disappeared behind the net- leaving only the constant creak and groan of the trampoline, caused by the relentless children inside. I looked behind me, at the peaceful garden, lit well from the sun. I was last. Last to disappear from reality and enter the whole new world behind the net of the trampoline. I faltered on the landing unsure as always. It was hot. The trampoline radiated heat. It was hot like the asphalt floor where I fell years ago. I closed my eyes, remembering the sudden vertigo of impact- how my world went upside down. The pain was incredible- unbearable even. From then on, I was cautious. Never wanting to experience new things. I suppressed myself, withdrawing into my mind- forming a barrier between me and the outside world.
I looked at the trampoline in front of me. Really looked at it. My eyes took in the colossal structure, the towering poles supporting the sleek deceptive net hiding the children inside. Hesitantly on reached to part the flap and I craned my head around to see inside.
Sweaty faces glimmered in the sunlight. Toothy smiles were stretched from ear to ear. I wanted to be part of that. Without thinking again, I hauled myself in. Disappearing behind the black net. Into oblivion.
It was full of moving bodies, jumping up and down. I slipped in my socks but was helped up by my beaming friend. She rolled her eyes at my clumsiness and jumped higher and higher. I tried to copy but my movements were awkward and slow. She grabbed my hands and spun me in dizzying circles. Round round and around. She weaved past everyone wit agility and grace- turning somersaults in the air, much to the awe of the children around her. I stood to the side just balanced at the edge of the trampoline where no one could see me, but I could get a clear view of my friend. What happened next, I saw it clearly. Her sun- kissed skin and upturned lips faltered as was in the air. Her mouth formed an ‘o’ of shock as her arms folded back. The edge of her toe tripped over the landing of the trampoline as she fell out of the trampoline and disappeared out the black net.
The flap of the trampoline lay open. Cruelly reminding us of our foolishness. I heard the sickening thud as soft body hit the cold hard ground. I was outside the trampoline first. Wrenching back the ugly black net and scrambling down the ladder. She lay still, in front of me and I kneeled in front of her too shocked to speak. Her face was pale and drawn, smeared with mud. It was then I let a gut- wrenching sob- my seven year old self, believing the worst. I felt my body collapse and spasm in waves of anguish.
Something cold was pressed to the side of me. My eyes flickered slowly and I slowly looked at the blurry outlines around me. An icepack was held by an adult I did not recognise. There was a sharp, jolting pain where the icepack was placed. I could not move.
“You fell” The kid in front of me said.
“You need to go to the hospital” whispered the adult.
I let arms carry me away from the trampoline. Away from the deceptive world within, until it was only a black silhouette in the distance. My friend was me. And I, her.