When you were an infant, I bound you to my heart to keep you safe. You screamed and cried like a tiny P.O.W., but it was for the best. It got harder when you started to move, but you got used to being strapped into seats. Once we went to the park and I let you loose for just a minute. You crawled away so fast! When I caught you, you held a furry caterpillar inches from your face. You had such a look of wonder, while all I felt was fear.
Years later, when you started school, it was agony to let go of you. But I stayed close by volunteering daily, on hand to monitor your sugar intake and run the gross motor skills lab. I know Mrs. Kapicki feels I over-stepped when I introduced the root-finding method, but it's not my fault you were the only fourth-grader who caught on. I blame her for when you said you didn't want to be special; you wanted to be like everyone else. That's when I first noticed your antennae...
I've only ever wanted the very best for you. In academics (1), cello (2), lacrosse (3), friendship club (4). They'd said the high-school years would be hard, and Dr. Melanie Cooper-Smith nailed it when she wrote, "Keep your enemies close and your teen closer." I'd buzz around you each morning, loading your Mandarin textbooks into my back seat, even though you'd barely speak to me, except to ask me to give you some space, for God's sake. Nonetheless, I followed you through the park to school, keeping a distance. I'd watch you flit among the lilac and milkweed, sipping from each. By then you were easy to spot, cloaked all in orange edged with black. And impossible to contain.
Despite our differences, we'd almost made it to our goal, you and I—the perfect grade point, the completed SATs and college apps. But they say it's a journey's final descent that's the riskiest, when the captain is careless after so many miles up in the air, and everyone aboard is on edge about the landing. This morning when you disappeared, I rocked back and forth before remembering to search in all of your favorite places. The old willow tree out back where your folded wings blended into the grey bark, the school herb garden. Then I thought of the park.
Now my blades seem to shred the sky as I near the sanctuary where I know I'll find you, but the posted signs say I should never, ever go. Swooping down, I spot the netted tent, and from afar it looks like a gigantic campfire is raging inside. Until I get closer and see there must be thousands just like you in there, copper-colored and fluttering. As I drop lower, foolishly imagining I can still find you among so many others, I kick up a wind that tosses all of you around like a pile of leaves. As I frantically grapple to reverse, the one thing I remember from the old manual is this: The weight of me could crush you to dust. Unless I pull back, pull back hard—even if it means I'll crash into a million tiny pieces in mid-air.
's work has appeared in Five Points, The Sun, Superstition Review, Tin House online
and elsewhere. She lives in Northern California, where she co-edits 100 Word Story