2:00 PM – 9 – gymnastics stories

We create stories. When we are not fighting, we are working together in the best possible way. With the aid of ’80s toys — Skeletor Castle, My Little Ponies, Barbies, Smurfs — we create alternate worlds and live in them for hours at a time. Plotlines shift, and the entire house is our stage.

Outside the house, I am less happy. I am taking gymnastics, not because I enjoy it but because several of my popular friends also are taking gymnastics. In truth, I am afraid. When a girl gets a concussion after a fall from the uneven bars, I imagine hitting my head on the mat, being rushed to the hospital, in a coma perhaps. I am not good at floor exercises, or vault, or beam. Uneven bars is my strength, but I suck at that, too.

I will never be a graceful champion, swooping through the air and landing perfectly on the mat, back arched, feet firmly planted, hands in the air. If I get through this without breaking my neck, I will consider it a win. The only good moment comes on the last day, when the instructor grabs my feet as I lie on the mat. With the help of another coach, he pulls me upward, propels me into the air at an arc, at least eight feet high, and I am upright now, falling toward earth, and it’s exhilarating, with a soft landing and I laugh when I hit the ground.

At least I am great on the monkey bars in the playground.

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