The thrill of touching the sky—only I had it. I knew because I'd made oblique inquiries.
Is it possible to touch the sky, I'd periodically ask.
In a plane, dip-wad.
If you're a bird, dummy.
What kind of meds they have you on?
When I was nine, and my brother Nathan was three weeks shy of his eighteenth birthday, I stopped wanting to touch the sky. It was a Saturday—the kind that ushered in a coolness, letting you know summer, against all hope, had an end.
My parents were going to Maryland for a funeral of some relative I'd never met, and Dad had wanted to get an early start. Mom in her usual way, thwarted his plans. They climbed in the Chevy wagon at noon—cutting into precious hours of freedom. This was the first time Nathan and I would be left on our own overnight.
My brother and I waved till the car's back end bounced off the lip of our driveway and turned.
"That took long enough," said Nathan.
"She'll be the end of him," I said.
"If you're smart, Lucas, you'll never get married."
No worries there. I took off around to the backyard. Mom had forgotten the trampoline in her litany of other do's and don'ts. I shook off my sneakers and swung my leg over the aluminum edge. The black surface felt warm, but not unbearable like it had been for weeks.
In seconds the air was sifting through my hair, down my shirt. When I was jumping as high as I could go, I closed my eyes, lifted my arms above my head and stretched up through my torso. At the apex of each rise, I felt a moment of suspension, of weightlessness. It was there, with a wiggle of my fingers, that I touched the sky.
"Higher," called my brother. I wound my arms down and around, used them to propel me per his direction. My eyes opened at the sound of Nathan reeling out the hose—his attention already diverted. He was going to wash his prize, a white Firebird with a black hardtop, red interior—a very cool car. It had taken him two summers of flipping burgers to save for it.
"Are we going—to church tomorrow?" I was so winded it took two breaths to ask him. Chances were he wasn't going to take me, though Dad had told him to. Nathan had gotten handy with excuses. He had to work—though they'd never made him work Sundays before. A friend needed a ride to the airport. He had a big test to cram for. "Why don't you wanna go—go to church anymore?" I asked.
"I go—just don't need to make it every Sunday." He opened the faucet, stepped back as the water squirted from the coupling. "God and I keep in touch."
"But you miss a lot."
"Yeah, a thrill a minute."
I stopped fighting gravity—let it gradually still me. Lately, at church I'd taken to laying my hands, palms up, on my thighs—nothing obvious. What I really wanted to do was raise my hands up high like I'd seen people do on television. But even in my lap I felt a static tingling hover at my palms and fingertips. That was my idea of keeping in touch with God—and, yeah, it was exciting.
"You wanna go for a ride?" Nathan asked. "Then you'll know what a thrill is.
From upstairs in my bed, I heard a car, that didn't sound like our Chevy, pull into the driveway. I crept to the window. It was some girl I didn't know.
My brother was waiting, leaning back on his Firebird, arms crossed. He grabbed her when she got close, pulled her to him. She dropped her head back, the laughing face illuminated in lamplight. He kissed her neck, before she slipped through his hands, and still laughing, streaked out of sight, my brother chasing her. Guess he wasn't as opposed to marriage as he'd said. Or maybe this was just another temporary thrill for him—like going ninety on a straight away.
It took Mom weeks to notice that I'd lost all interest in the trampoline, but eventually she asked about it.
"I don't know," I told her, "it's boring." But that was a lie—the exhilaration would always be there. But touching the sky wasn't enough, anymore—not when I wanted to hold it.
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