You tell me I’m a bird. Calloused hands pinch into my ribs and lift me overhead. In your eyes, I’m soaring through the clouds like an eagle. I brace against the stipple and ask you to stop. You tell me how much fun we’re having. You swoop me lower. My hands scrape against the friable ceiling, like a rollerblader stopping in gravel. Puffs of asbestos-lined plaster rain down upon your bare shoulders, your version of dandruff.
Your booming laugh swallows my tears and the toxic popcorn, too. You start to choke. You hold me with one sweaty hand while pounding your chest with the other. You call this turbulence. I ask you to put me down, but you say we’re just getting started. You weave around the couch, leap over the ottoman, duck beneath the doorframe.
You stop at the counter to refuel. You fill a dirty glass with a dark pungent liquid and a few plops of ice. You throw it back in one giant gulp, your neck jerking backwards and my tiny body with it.
You catch me just before I fall, pinning my narrow frame against your hip. I reach for the ground, but you shout takeoff and lift me higher. In a bad piolet’s voice, you announce we’ll reach a cruising speed of 500 miles per hour.
You tell me to reach for the stars. I shut my eyes and picture myself hurtling through space. You spin me in circles, quickly at first, but slower with each rotation. Your wobbly steps threaten to bring us down. Your knee buckles and almost gives way, but you’re resilient. Your world is perpetually off axis. To you, this is child’s play.
You plunge me lower until I can almost touch the floor. I claw out for it but you snap me back overhead. I let my body go limp. I’m at your mercy as you dip, toss, and twirl me around the living room, all while reminding me how much fun we’re having.
You stop again to refuel. This time you drink straight from the bottle. You burp and I feel the vibration in my chest. This is the funniest thing in the world to you and you’re mad that I’m not laughing. You tickle me until I can’t help but giggle. It’s a pitiful sound but it fills you with such joy.
You announce we’re beginning our descent. You lift me overhead so I’m parallel to the ceiling. I duck to avoid the light fixture. You stop at the staircase. I beg you to put me down but you charge forward, counting the steps like reps at the gym.
The ground levels out and you stumble across the wooden floor. You lay me down gently in bed and pull up the covers. Beads of sweat drip down your forehead and land on my face. Through laboured breaths, you tell me that you love me.
Your fingers find your favourite photo on my nightstand. You stare into her hazel eyes, say that I remind you of her. Tears roll down your cheeks, blend with your sweat, fall onto my pillow. I struggle to keep my head above the saltwater.
You lift her photo as you once lifted me. Your rough fingers smudge the glass. Your shaky hands distort her smile. She slips loose from your fingers and falls onto my thighs. I feel her arms wrapped around me. I bathe in her embrace.
Her voice echoes through my head. She promises that everything will be alright. She reaches for my hand. And then we jump. For a moment, we’re suspended in midair. The sea beneath us is eerily calm, inviting.
Your soft hands grab me from the armpits. You hold me above your head like a trophy. You spin me around in circles. Higher, I beg. You throw me as far as you can into the cool dark waters. I find my way back to your shoulders. Again.
You stumble down the steps to the filling station. I hear the rattling sound of ice against glass. I hear the roar of an engine and a young child’s cries. I bring my knees to my chest and brace for impact.
Jared Cappel‘s work has appeared in After Dinner Conversations, Blue Lake Review, Door Is A Jar, Literally Stories, and Metastellar, among others. When he’s not writing, he enjoys creating digital art known for its abstract imagery and vibrant use of colour. A lover of wordplay, he’s ranked as one of the top Scrabble players in North America. Follow the latest at www.jaredcappel.com.