Thursday, August 15, 2013
Pretense. That's what made those moments unique. I went numb trying to pretend that there wasn't a whole gym class full of boys standing in a silent circle, looking at me, waiting for the inevitable. I played along with the pretense of trying to climb the rope when I knew just as well as they did what was coming. There was an inexorability in seeing the moment in the near future when the misery would be over, and knowing that between me and it there was one path and zero choices. I had to play along with the absurdity. I had to pass through that eye of the storm of eyes.
The pretense was necessary. Grades in gym class were based on effort. I didn't have to climb an inch. I just had to try my best. So I was grateful for that pretense. And I felt pathetic for feeling grateful for the protection that pretense afforded me. I was a freak who was lucky not to suffer more than humiliation for not being able to climb a rope—a matryoshka of gratitude and shame.
So when I stepped up to that rope, I knew I would do my best, and I knew I wouldn't climb it. I had seen the other boys climb it--seen one or two of them reach the top. I dreamed of being like them. I knew I never would. I knew I'd never climb a rope to the top.
Today I climbed a rope to the top.