Thumbs Up

By: Liam Cuddy

The boy sat still, clutching the edges of the peeling leather seat as they moved along. His headphones clung to the side of his face, and a strange man with a beard kept pointing things out to him. “We’re passing Seneca Lake now if you want to take a look?”

But he didn’t want to take a look. No he wanted to keep his eyes down, he wanted to keep his stare locked on his feet and remain quiet in his own little world. In his world, the world he would soon have to kiss goodbye.

He thought about his daydreams of walking a tightrope and what they might mean. The dreams always seemed to end the same way, an uneasy sensation followed by a rush of cold air which usually woke him up. But no matter how many times he fell off that rope, that never stopped him from going back up. He knew it was safer on the ground, and he knew that net wouldn’t always be there to catch him. But the tightrope was always more exciting, the tightrope offered a new perspective. Things seemed smaller from up there, less intimidating. Some of the items that seemed so frightening at first almost appeared as comical from that high perspective.

The boy was leaving for college in less than a week, and he had to make his peace. There was no more relying on mom and dad to get him out of a jam, there was no more guidance or “what are you going to do with your life” talks. There was no more early morning cartoons or coming home to a hot meal.

He thought about how his entire life had been so structured, every little thing had been planned out. The man with the beard got his attention by tapping him on the shoulder. “We got about about 40 seconds buddy!” he said with glee.

The boy looked back down, contemplating this past summer. What if he had asked her out, would she have said yes? What if he had smoked that joint? Would he have become an addict? What if he had gone to that concert? Would he have missed that one paycheck? What if he had told her to wait just a minute longer… would she still be alive?

The boy shook his head, trying to stay positive. Everything was coming at him so fast, the man with the beard tapped him on the shoulder once more. “You ready kid?” he asked him, revealing a nearly toothless smile. The boy took a deep  breath as he removed his headphones and turned around, welcoming the rush of air and booming noise into the tight space which held them all.

As he crawled towards the open door, the wind rushed by him so fast it distorted his face, making him unrecognizable. Even then, he thought about structure, playing it safe, and the what ifs and regrets he had because of it.

The man with the beard leaned in close and yelled into his ear trying his best to overcome the winds. “You give me the thumbs up. And I’ll give you the push. You know what chord to pull?”

The boy nodded again and tried once more to rid his mind of any distractions. Opening his eyes he looked down at the world. The lakes, the trees, the clouds, the open fields, and the two miles that separated them. With a shaking hand he held up his thumb. Within a moment he felt the firm hand on his back forcing him forward and out of the plane. Forcing him make peace with his past. Forcing him to grow and take chances. Forcing him to realize there is more to life than playing it safe, more to life than simple calculations and structure. His body twisted with the incoming wind as he watched the plane that had held him soar over his head and into the clouds behind him. This was far higher than any tightrope would ever bring him, and yet all was well.

Gravity pulled the boy faster than he had ever anticipated. He smiled, he screamed, he shouted as hard as he possibly could. He looked around and saw the world as he literally flew through the air. And for a moment, he forgot it all. And just like that, everything was alright, if not just for a moment.

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