It began with my daughter’s birth and escalated from there. By fifteen she was reckless with intent and threw herself from the perch of our roof. Drinking coffee at the time, I was splashed with burns in my leap to save her. Naturally, I asked why she didn’t use the ladder.
“You were just standing there.” She shrugged and scaled the ladder again, and I was forced to miss work that day.
When my boss lost his retirement fund he confessed he planned to jump from the window of our downtown office building. I’d worked there for years and appreciated that he never sexually harassed me. I asked if he had a time in mind and he relayed his tentative plans.
Though I attempted to enlist the firemen, they won’t respond to planned jumps, only imminent ones. “We wouldn’t have time to put out fires,” they said.
Just as well. My boss was late for his appointment. I stood below on the sidewalk waiting for hours. At dusk he finally sprung from the ribs of the still black structure. A broken, jagged piece dislodged and spread-eagled against blue and red-orange, suit billowed and rippling, mouth open and cheeks filled with air.
Catching him, my body collapsed in on itself. He was fine.
“You didn’t have to do that,” he said.
“You didn’t have to jump.”
“Well,” he said, “I hope you don’t expect me to pay your medical bills.”
Cuts were necessary if he was to recover his retirement fund. He told me I was being laid off. I got the doctor’s bill two months later and threw it in the trash.
That was the last straw for my husband. Said my catching habit was destroying our lives. He got full custody. They said I was a danger to my daughter.
I moved to India to get lost in the crowds. It was poorly planned. You can’t imagine how many people I caught there. They were falling all over the place. And they were angry. “Don’t you know the difference between someone who wants to be caught and someone who wants to be let go?” I didn’t. Wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Attempting to remove the temptation and escape the heat, I ended up in Antarctica. I almost drowned when a seal flopped in the water.
I came home when I learned my mother fell and broke her hip in the shower. Spent a good year locked up in her bathroom replaying the incident. Saw her aged body slip and grasp at the slick plastic surrounding her, my arms reaching out to envelop her fragile form. She told me to forget about it. But how could I, knowing exactly how it should have happened.
Soon it was rain and snow, my palms raised as I rushed back and forth to save each drop from the force of the ground, absorbing it into myself. In autumn, I lay beneath the tree in the front yard of the house I hated. Yellow and orange covered me until I was the earth. It got so bad I could barely stand for fear of what might fall from me. Dead hair, skin and small insects. Leaves, lint and crumbs.
I’d become a disruption to the natural order. I was the ground.
So I came up with a plan. Downtown, I found the tallest building. Ignored the elevator to feel my feet pound down onto each concrete step. Panting and red and soaked with sweat, I stumbled onto the roof where the wind froze my perspiration and stung my skin. Over the edge there was a mass of people waiting below, their bodies interlaced, still and strong, while mine was alone, weak and shaking. Each piece of me had become so heavy, like a compact history of the world. I had consumed all the things that settle from the sky and our bodies. Holding my breath, I imagined the crowd catching me and supporting that weight. And for a moment the thought was enough.
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