I haven’t done one since I was eight. I remember, because when I was nine my mother placed me in an after-school program called Little Shepard. The program arranged a number of trips. That summer we visited a gymnasium where I tried to perform a summersault for the first time in a while. I felt a strain in my neck, and stopped out of fear.
A boy whose sleeves spilled onto the mat offered to help, but I jumped up and politely refused.
“One more time!”
It’s eleven years later. I’ve been pushing myself for a while, pushing my feet against the mat, watching the drops of sweat that slide down my jaw, but my breath isn’t heavy with my new stamina. My shoulder aches after constantly hitting the ground sideways, but it doesn’t stop me. I want to do this.
“Come on!” I boom. My mother gives me a wary look before approaching.
“This is the last time,” she says.
I’ve been afraid of doing this since I was nine, fearing the strain in my neck. The fear solidified over the years, worse due to the extent of my experiences. My neck manages my paralysis and nightmares; it manages how high I hold up my head, how I breathe with or without someone’s hands wrapped around them. My neck collects clusters of stress. No one can kiss the anxiety away, but I don’t need them to.
I can handle it.
“Okay.” I inhale sharply and throw myself back. She helps with a push.
I roll, I crouch, I’m on my feet. My grin seems to blind her.
“I knew that time you’d be able to do it,” she praises, and walks off.