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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Short memoir piece from a longer series, "Love Under 22"

Submitted: June 20, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 20, 2017





I will fall on my twenty-second birthday. Scrape my knee. Wipe the blood before it has time to run. I’ll say it’s because of the heels, I’ll say it’s because I drank too much, but really, I’m just a klutz. Balance was never really my thing. I have anxiety dreams that I will get pulled over, completely sober, and be unable to walk heel-to-toe. I avoided the balance beam as a little girl in gymnastics, I skipped the bike rides, I always leave at least ten feet between me and the edge of a rooftop, I’d never go hiking without a hand to hold.


Maybe you just love gravity too much, Melissa.


Maybe I just can’t let go of stained skin, I think to myself. I cannot remember a time when my skin has been clear of blemishes, my legs free of purpley-green welts, my body void of lattices of scratches and scar tissue, running perpendicular to my blue veins.


Of course, everyone who handles me physically treats me well, because they know I can break. It’s me who’s reckless. Tripping, falling, skidding on ice – one bruise heals as another expands on raw skin. Maybe I’m testing my own breaking point. Maybe I do just have a love of gravity, of being grounded, of staying on two feet. Too close to the edge and my body falls before I take the leap, preventing me from doing even more harm.


But why do I always remember the falls? The almost-mishaps, the close calls, the rain before the storm. I am with friends when I fall on my twenty-second birthday, and they miss their cue to catch me. I am down before they can react, and for some reason, I don’t mind. The cut is superficial, we are riding on the high of the night, we fill the darkness of Grand Avenue with the heat from our exhales.


You catch me, though; on the night you tell me I have an affinity for gravity. We are on Summit Avenue and Cambridge Street in sleepy St. Paul, and I am just twenty-one years old.


“I have an idea,” you tell me moments before, somehow knowing I love the thrill of spontaneity.


It is pouring, and this is the first time you see me soaking wet. It is before the long nights, before the shared showers, before skipping over puddles and swimming in lakes. It is possibly only our second or third date, back when you asked for permission to hold my hand. Back when you wanted to hold my hand.


I hesitate to put my hood up. After years of flat irons and serums and gels that promised to tame the frizz, hood up has been an automatic reaction. But this time, on our second or third date, I wanted you to see me. I wanted to watch you watch my hair expand to twice its size and trace a halo of curly cues around my forehead. And I knew you wanted to, too.


You take my hand and tell me to close my eyes. I am immediately taken back to fears of falling as I am whisked around three times in front of a cartoon donkey, my sight taken from me, completely vulnerable and dizzy and out of balance.


“Just walk with me,” you say, and I can hear you smile. We slosh through the thick rivulets that coat the streets, me, blind, and you, my guide. You tell me every twig I need to step over, every curb cut I need to come down, and I trust you. You come in front of me to kiss me gently, kiss my rain-soaked mouth, and I let you.


But you miss one uneven spot in the sidewalk, one imperfect architectural flaw, and I come down, fast.


You manage to grab me right before my knee hits the curb, but the water from the poorly drained sidewalk still manages to drown my jeans.


You are sorry, of course, and I am forgiving.


I fall, but there is padding.


86th Street and Lexington Avenue. I fall on subway steps but I take him down with me.


Summit Avenue and Macalester Street. I fall zooming down the hill outside my dorm but you encourage me to turn my mistake into rolling down hills. We climb back up and roll down together.


55th Street and Ellis Avenue. I fall over the rim of a public pond but she pulls me quickly back to solid ground, laughing as she does.


Tonight, Grand Avenue and Pascal Street. I fall alone. People surround me, but I fall alone tonight, on my twenty-second birthday. And despite every successful second of life on solid ground, I will most vividly remember the falls – the ones where you led me to fall, and the ones where I fall alone. 

© Copyright 2018 Melissa F. All rights reserved.

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