The bars were breathing so that they would take me in and wrap around my head and not in and out like a bullfrog but warty like one, yes, and bubbling. “So that,” as if with a purpose.
You hear bars and you think…a prison a drunkard a lawyer a crow. But it is none of those things. It is a child’s playground. There are bars, yes, to climb and to disengage and there are chutes, which are my favorite. Because for every several little Tom and Sally that climbs the rungs behind it greased with the sweat and sand and spittle and bloodtrickles of children’s play there is the boy, unnamed, who will climb that chute until it is a chute no longer and then that little boy is the owner of his language, which is to own the world. Once he figures to climb the other tra-la-las will join him in laughter until the grown-up says to get down, to stop before anyone gets hurt.
And what do you know! Then the pridehurt little king will go and climb higher than usual on the bars, he will yank redfaced up until his thin smooth elbows are resting on the top rung and just his face peeks over like the red sun at day’s end but it is not setting it is rising, slowly, or is the whole world dropping below him like the handle on a dynamite plunger? And slowly still ruddy in the face with exertion he rises and the shoulders blossom and arms straighten and then the knees. First knee on the top rung and the second. And then with a chemist’s precision he will place the kneecaps on the subsequent rung, ankles hooking the one behind, and he will reach forward pushing himself up from the one that is further still. And the first points down will be the last to come off, and the last will be the first. The hands let go, and he is leaning back and kneeling, arms outstretched but he is higher than the rest hears none of the shouting knows in his own way that he is underneath no one but God.
Then the tottering upright, the hands are down again sliding backwards towards the ladder, stiffening first the legs and letting go then with the hands until the boy is upright like the First Man. And oh! How he walks on those bars that so many have swung between below like animals and ignores the shouts and the fear that holds him like quicksand and gravity. The blissful unknowing of this the greatest accomplishment in his life is what makes it greatest and the falling will not matter or the breaking bones or the hospital or the painful nights waiting up and the therapy and wheelchairs and nurses, because it is all in the future, as is the applause from his young peers and the scolding of his parents, that to a young heart is the greatest of praises at his defiance. It is all the future and is all mist and legend and the glory and the fear intermingling create a dizzying stew of potentiality.
And this story is in these bars, a whole book of them in fact which I may or may not write. And one bar! The joy I feel at stories, the best of which are never lies.