19 August, 2004

Before Noon

...got me a Chrysler as big as a whale and it's about to set sail....

The Universe loves me and wants me to be happy, as it could easily have sent dreadful weather with which to NOT enjoy my new toy. But no, it's been lovely, and I take my top off at every opportunity. The brackish scent of baywater surrounds me as I cross the bridge into the city, haze palpable and delicious.

We park beside AVAM, and the children do not clamor to put coins in the meter, a sign of their excitement. They are in a hurry and know that I will Get It Done faster. Funny, this: they are spectators this time 'round. Since when are my kids happy to be sidelined?

The Inner Harbor is quiet. Morning workers have arrived already, leaving traffic a gentle hush, but no cackling crowds yet clutter the scene.

The crew is subdued, as are the students, weighed by heavy atmosphere.

The belt squeezes me in half. I shift it so that breathing becomes feasible. Focus on the ladder tether, reel it down slowly. Usually, I am impatient, and it locks up, snapping to still. My fingers savor the texture of the rope. Clips attach with quiet snicks, and I climb, one paw at a time, pushing with my thighs. The ladder's rungs, wrapped with white tape, grip back against my hands and feet. This may be my favorite part, the ascent. I am not yet tense with the possibility of screwing up.

Top, reach, grab fragile looking frame for balance, stand on platform. Beautiful. The cityscape is smeared with this morning's sultry haze. Hello, Scout. Waiting for the lines to be removed from the person ahead of me, we chat. I reveal a bit of my story; he shares some of his. The lines come up. I unclip my right side from the tether, he clips it to the lines. Left side. Peer down at the person at the bottom of the ladder, tug the tether so that he can reel it down, as I reeled it down a few minutes ago. Face forward again, looking for the bar. Hold with left hand to the frame, toes off platform, heels down.

This is the most terrifying moment for a first-timer, the moment right before being "let off," standing, hips thrust forward, toes in space, body weight straining against left arm, grasping trap with right hand. It's uneven and precarious, despite safety lines and Scout's restraining arm. Scout: "Left hand on the bar." He takes my whole weight. Desperate to take a little bounce, like a diver, I hold my heels down, waiting, waiting.


I leave the board.

Brian's voice takes over, guiding me. "Legs up!" Pull my legs to the bar at the height of my arc, squeeze them through, hook them, nearly anticipating the next command. "Hands off!" I remove my hands, stretch, arch my back, look for the catcher, John, smile, frown? I don't know. Good hands = fingers together, thumbs splayed wide and pointing at the catcher. Do I have good hands? "Gotcha!" John has me. I grip back, unhook my legs, sail, bound to his wrists. "And sit!" He lets me go. Brian brakes my fall with the lines, clipped to my belt. I bounce into the net, looking up for grey mist sky.

Welcome to Trapeze School.

(Love Shack; The B-52s)

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