I went for a run today, the coals on the grass-pavement boarder scorching the rubber soles of my shoes with every step. I started running in fifth grade when I realized I could not and would not fly. Running is the same as flying except your feet touch the ground. My track coach asked me once why I liked to run, and I said it was because when you run, you don’t have to trust anyone to catch you when you fall.
During my run, I decided that maybe it’s not our house that is paper thin, but the people within it. Mom’s weeping heart and the nervous banter of Dad’s ribcage were following me, haunting me with every step. I ran three miles to the 7/11 and three miles back without stopping, still unable to escape the deafening echoes of our parents.
Our parents must be the reason why I run. Why I can’t help but keep my feet on the ground. Why the rubber soles of my shoes are melting away. Why I can’t seem to stitch the perfect circular tear plaguing the night’s darkness.
Someday, while you can still fly, I’ll teach you to run, and you can help lift me up while the smoke is tugging on our ears at one o’clock in the morning.
At one o’clock in the morning, it will be just us.
Mom is blackening around her belly, her knuckles bleeding their pallid glow into the rest of her body. She let Dad and I place our hands on her swollen torso, on you, which left our fingertips charred. When you kicked, her body shivered like it was trying to rid itself of the foreign being inside of it. Dad squeezed her hand, but Mom couldn’t see the way he tapped his foot, counting the seconds until it was over, striking the flint for a spark.
My blackened fingertips leave a scar of ash on everything I touch. I fear that you will arrive in this world blackened by our mother’s belly. I hope not.
I’m sitting in the hospital. It’s white and boxy like a refrigerator. It smells stiff, sterile, and stale like lighter fluid, a hydrocarbon mixture. They say if you lock yourself inside a refrigerator eventually you’ll run out of air. Fires need air to burn. Maybe that’s why people come here for help. They come here when there’s nothing left to do but stop their thin, paper walls from folding in.
In the delivery room, Dad’s flint rock foot keeps tapping, and Mom’s belly is steaming. I can see the heat rising out of the cracks in the delivery room door from my folding chair in the waiting room. An elderly nurse handed me a cup of water. She cupped it in my hand like she was gifting me the way out of the impending flames. I took it out of politeness, but I don’t need it. I have the smoke pulling at the tips of my ears. The smoke that will lift us off into the sky.
Mom’s howls of fire light up the small window opening the delivery room to the rest of the hospital box. She’s like a dragon, spewing flames carelessly. Dad’s flint stone foot is getting louder and louder. I can see the ash gliding up through the air like snowflakes. I slam my hands against my ears as their moaning symphony crescendos.
Then, it all stops. The doctor comes out into the waiting room letting the fire loose to consume the rest of the hospital box instead. He gestures for me to come inside. I see you, Baby, in my mother’s arms, but you’re white and frail and paper-thin like the rest of us. You’re not the wisp of smoke that tugs at my ears at one o’clock in the morning. You’re not the needle that will stitch the perfect circular tear in the blanketed night. You’re not my spark that will light the fire that I can watch on the grass-pavement boarder that will create the smoke that will float me away. There is no flying.
We’re paper-thin, Baby, singed and waiting to burn.