Reflections on my first day of flying trapeze…so many, many years ago:
Richie shouts, “Carolyn, you’re up!” I whip my head and stare at him. No, no…it’s been so nich just sitting with all of the other students, watching everyone else. “What?” I say. “Go on!” he nods. I look at the other students. My stomach pinches and my legs tremble as I walk to the base of the ladder. Masha stops me and begins to rub chalk on my palms.
“For luck,” she says, “I’ll be right behind you. And remember, smile!” I start the climb, rung after rung. I look up. “Don’t look up!” Ron yells from the platform. I look at the yard and the trees. I concentrate on the ladder. I can’t breathe. I reach the platform and scramble on top. “Step into the middle,” says Ron. He grabs my harness and attaches the safety ropes. My eyes blur. My muscles seize. “Look at the chickens in the next yard,” he says, “Look at the mountains in the distance. Aren’t we having fun?” I clench the platform supports and grimace. My heart pounds through my sports bra. Ron grabs the bar and brings it up to me. My right arm shoots out and my fingers wrap around. He steps behind me and grips my waist. Masha brings the bar to my left hand. My fingers stretch and hold. The catcher is ready. “Smile,” Masha reminds me. I grin at her; it’s acutally a grimace. “Listo?” shouts Richie from below. Sweat is in my eyes. My mouth dries. “Listo!” Ron answers for me. “Ready!” Ron grabs tighter. “Set,” calls Richie I bend my knees. “Go!” I drop off the platform, clinging to the trapeze. I hear nothing, and then I hear everything. I am flying. “Nice and easy,” Richie says, “just listen to me.” I make one full arc. “Legs up!” he says. I tuck my knees and wrap them over the bar as the trapeze arcs again back toward the platform. “Hands off!” I hear him, but I hold on. My body doesn’t respond. “Hands OFF!” he yells. I throw my hands off as I start my third arc. Hanging only by my knees, the catcher’s face appears below me. I see his arms and reach out. He clutches my wrists and my legs come off the bar. As we swing, I let out a shriek. “Are you ready?” he asks. “No….no…..yes!” “One, two, three,” he says. He lets go and I plummet into the net. I bounce and tumble, trying to stand. My legs buckle and my hands shake. I crawl to the edge of the net and flip over. I am trembling as Ritchie hugs me. Next step, I am told: catch the flybar on the return and make it back to the board. Whatever the hell that means!