A work of flash fiction where familial trauma is unpacked amid the utter peace and solitude of suspension…
by: Abigail Kemske
The sound you make when you fall from the sky is static on the radio. It’s an eternal wave that never crashes. The grief of gravity forcing you down. Or maybe it’s grief for Father, the clipping and clanging of buckles and harnesses. The adrenaline that plucks you out of your seat and leadens your feet when the plane door opens, the joke of being an adrenaline junkie, a rushing so loud your brain goes feral, the rush of all rushes, words fading to survival. The landlord evicting you, dragging your feet back to your childhood home because your hours were cut at the restaurant and you were buried up to your neck in student loans and there were no jobs in the recession. The blast of winter, the air so thin and cold that it slaps your face like a wet towel wound up and whip-snapped at you like when Milo came home for Christmas and called you “go-nowhere-Gemma,” “get-over-Dad-Gemma,” and “stop-mooching-on-Mom-Gemma.”
It’s the thumbs up for go time. The flapping of the jumpsuit in the wind, distant mountains like sandcastles and you are Godzilla again coming to destroy them with your atomic breath. Father tossing you in the air to smash them to smithereens. The breath held at the jump, a dizzying wind, the screeching of a million cicadas or perhaps that is just what escapes your throat. Mother’s slap across your cheek that stung more than Milo’s towel stung, more than the high-altitude air when she caught you in a lie, saying you couldn’t pay for the gas or mortgage but could afford another jump. The hollow guilt of seeing Mother cry because not only did she lose Father she might lose the house too. Mother tossing your belongings in the mud, the soprano engine screaming for you in fear, watching the Earth zoom in like Google Maps finding your location, pockets pulled out and flapping in the wind, living with an ex and eating bologna sandwiches every day of week except Friday, working three jobs until you land a nine-to-five, shoes squeaking across the linoleum floor of your new apartment.
The sound you make when you fall from the sky is Mother pleading for you to stop the jumps saying who would take care of her when a parachute fails. Mother not understanding why up here is the only place you can breathe, the only place you see Father. Father racing you on the bicycle, the wind whipping through your hair. Father filling up ten balloons and letting them all go at once. Father’s gentle hands spinning you endlessly when you dance. The tug of the parachute gasping for air, the wind whistling sweetly through it, the sandcastles giving way to mountains, the utter peace and solitude of suspension, the air forcing its way into your lungs. Father gently lowering you until the earth pushes back on your feet. That first breath on solid ground, lungs buzzing loud as zeppelins, holding the air in as long as you can, holding Father in as long as you can, and letting it trickle out as you walk across the earth.
Abigail Kemske (she/her) is a writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She received undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota. Before settling into writing, she worked as a middle school English teacher.