It was just the four of us, some island in the Andaman Sea I forget the name of. Britt and her sister, my brother and I and the sun hovering golden red like a harvest moon out at the horizon, just above the water. The air was warm with a light breeze, like the memory of a childhood summer, the kind that’s remembered only in bits and pieces, retained as a feeling more than an event.
The ocean was warm too, the sand chalky beneath our heels four feet down. Others were in the water, people we didn’t know, playing in the gentle waves and laughing. Their voices seemed distant. The hills overlooking the beach were a deep, tropical green and set below a darkening sky. The bamboo hut on the beach was stalked with cold drinks and churned out Reggae beats. The music, like the laughter, sounded as if it came from far away. You could hear its essence, but none of the details. This was where I learned how to do backflips.
When we were kids, Martin and I would climb onto our dad’s shoulders in the pool in Palm Springs. Mom would be enjoying the sun, or she’d have a plate full of tuna sandwiches and glasses of ice water waiting for us on the patio table. Dad would count to three, bending his knees at each number while we balanced with our feet on his shoulders and on the final beat, he’d submerge below the water and then rocket up. And we’d be flying. Airborne kids in a state meant for birds, our arms and legs flapping in the wind before finally crashing into the deep end.
We’d do this for hours, taking turns, experiencing flight as if it were a candy we weren’t supposed to eat. We never flipped though, not backwards anyways, too scared. Always have been.
On the beach at dusk as the sun was just dipping beneath the ocean, Martin and I were taking turns launching each other and the girls. Twenty years later we were remembering what it feels like to fly, if only for a moment.
Moments like that make you forget everything. Or at least, they make me forget everything. It’s just you, the people you love, the perfect, perfect weather and the sensation of floating in a substance that has no density. So as we were launching into the air and crashing into the water, and I having forgotten just about everything outside the moment, including the long desire to do backflips, on one random toss seemingly like the others, it just happened. I was balanced on Martin’s shoulders. He counted to three, submerged beneath the surface and then sprang up. My body arched back in the air, did the full rotation and I landed on my feet, completely bewildered by what happened. And just like that, all of my previous fear to rotate in the direction I couldn’t see disappeared. Been able to back flip ever since. All it took was twenty years, forgetting about fear, and a total accident.