Once when I was little, someone was pushing me on the tire swing at my elementary school’s playground, and suddenly, in the middle of it all, I forgot to keep holding on.
I could not then and cannot now say why or how, but I forgot, and my hands opened.
I flew off, into a wooden beam that served as one of the swing’s supports, and even now, I can practically feel the exact pulse and throb of the hurt. The frozen moment when I couldn’t breathe. When I wasn’t sure I was still whole.
I learned, though.
I learned how easy it is to forget.
How easily hands can open, how easily the high, the exhilaration, can turn into the fall, the shattering. Just like that.
Just like that.
I’ve held on tightly ever since.
I never forget what’s in my hands anymore. What it means, how much it matters. I keep my fingers clenched, my knuckles white, around the things worth holding onto.
Even after the swing has stopped, even after night has fallen.
Even after everyone else has gone home.
Even after he cut the tire swing from its supports and let me and it fly into that beam all over again, all over again.
I stayed there in that frozen moment, trying to remember to breathe, unsure if I was whole, for months and months, but I didn’t let go.
I haven’t let go.
I am not a girl who lets go, do you hear me, do you hear me.
Even though all that I’m holding onto is a frayed rope that no longer ties to anything at all.
People look at me funny, the way I’m holding onto this dead rope, the way I drag it with me everywhere. The way I say no whenever someone else comes along and offers me the end of a different rope, a different rope that might actually lead somewhere, that might actually lead everywhere.
No, I say, No.
This rope, this rope, I say. I still believe this rope will be the one that saves me.
I learned my lesson, I won’t let go.
Because it matters, because it has to matter, because this is all we get. This breath, this heartbeat, and maybe the next one, if we’re lucky.
And I don’t want to look back someday and ask myself why I opened my hands.
No, I want to look down at them –
– and see the threaded, blistered remains of that rope –
there in my hands
and know, and know –
I did everything I could.