They went aloft before I knew it.
What raving moron takes two babies parasailing.
In a harness, on a cable. A cable 600 feet long.
Under a parachute. No rainbow nylon disk geared for tots at Gymboree. I am talking real parachute. A jump-out-of-an-airplane-like-an-idiot real parachute.
Pulled by a boat. A fast motorboat piloted by mariners of dubious licensure and skill. I am no bigot and I realize that our own Coast Guard is not fail safe. To wit, the decapitated boy in San Diego Bay on that bloody Parade of Christmas Lights. All those maritime skills did that kid no good. Done in by a Coast Guard Cutter, literal in his case.
An officer at the wheel, taffeta fruit salad on his breast, sea water in his socks. Some comfort to that family. Negligence is negligence and it happens on our shores, in our waters. In our air, let’s not forget. Fat chance. For that family’s attorney, a new car, Stanford tuition for an alive not-so-little one. For that family, no more boating, I daresay. Goodbye, Christmas lights.
And this is the U.S.A.
Parasailing in Mexico. I had no clue they were doing it. Weren’t they too young? That was my thought.
But no. The harness held three. Minty and Max flanked their father. The harness thick and fibrous like a bleached ace bandage. A highlight of their Mexican vacation. It was spontaneous, Lars told me when I called. Three photos sent to my phone.
The portrait pre deployment. There they were, harnessed, helmetless, barefoot, giggling, sunburned, perched on the end of a boat. Tendrils of wake behind them in the turquoise water. Lars looked proud: pater on holiday, the hearty and expansive Poobah of family fun. The children looked hyper, bright eyed, nearly pixelated. A flapping flag like on the boat in “Powderfinger.”
My kids’ noses the red of candy apples. Some adult could do better on the sunscreen, I immediately thought.
Second pic. Their feet are leaving the boat. Suspended in air, toes down like Baryshnikov in triplicate. Cable unfurling.
Lars had the ugliest gnarled feet on the planet. The phalanges of Tom Joad. Only muriatic acid could break down his stubborn ram’s horn metatarsals. Those feet could last for decades in their concrete solidity. You’d think.
Max and Minty’s? Stubby and sweet. Still practically rectangular in the way of small child feet. Pillowy, no chiropody needed.
Caught in the air.
The third. The cable is unrolled, the parachute distended and doing its business. Under the parachute they were safe. Let us call it Mrs. Parachute. Holding the air, holding the kids. Who knew the parachute could be a carriage, a home? I see her sometimes. I go to the aquarium and there she is, Mrs. Parachute, bobbing balletic in the jellyfish tank. Something shaky and ghostly and uterine about it all. The cable and the tentacles, Fallopian and necessary.
Their bodies are tiny and high up. When I heard 600 feet, the blood drained promptly from my brain to my heart. Six hundred feet? In the fucking air?
It’s the length of the cable, Rosalie, goddamnit it, Lars said.
We weren’t up that high.
Oh yeah? Well, uh, how high were you?
Rosalie, I don’t know exactly how high we were.
You took the kids up in this thing, and you don’t know how high you went?
No, Rosalie. I didn’t know how high we were.
But you admit that you were high.
We were high, I don’t know exactly.
I realized this was sounding like some stoner anthem.
What about the 600 feet?
That was the rope, Rosalie. The cable.
I’m not talking cable, Lars. I’m talking actual height.
What do you want me to do, get a prospectus?
A prospectus, Lars? A prospectus?
I don’t know what you expect, Rosalie.
I expect you to know how high something is when you take our children on it!
I guess you could say we were as high as a 15-story building.
A 15-story building?
Yes, Rosalie. Fifteen stories.
That’s my estimate, yeah, fifteen…
You were up that high? Fifteen stories?
Max, want to say hello to your mom?
Parasail Photos 1 2 and 3. I kept them in my phone, of course. I kept all photos. I kept everything. A few orange-crowned Q-tips, earwax darkening. Hardened Band-aid under their dresser, a dot of blood on the pad like a Japanese flag, brown though, not red. It had been red once. Oxygenated. Their hairbrushes went to the coroner. I did find other hair. Despite my exemplary housekeeping, and the ministrations of Rosa, who has worked for me since her own son was two, six years before Minty’s arrival, and my love for clean, smooth surfaces free of schmutz, an underworld of child dirt remained. And has stayed, thanks to my vigilance. I planned to do their laundry the day before they came home.
It smells, it’s moldy and cheese and rank and I will not change a thing about it. It stays and it will stay and it will smell and that will be it. I do stick my hands inside their soft-sided nylon hamper and toss the clumps of clothes in swirls like distributing tomatoes in a salad. Shake some undies, push some jeans. When I was very little, younger than Max or Minty, I kept a glass of milk on my rattan nightstand for a week and it hardened into firm pudding with an ivory rind. I broke it open, the white mass, and the hole released the sharpest smell of dirty human ever. No elegance of Roquefort, no clinical Penicillin. This was odor contained in the private runnels and whorls of the body’s most private and unwashed. Alive, now dead aroma. I ran away from it.
It is their laundry now. Not borne in the fibers of whatever. I hold the smell. Whenever possible, spin it with my hands and cover my nose with a sock. After, I don’t wash my hands. I sniff my fingers for hours. I’m a smug teenager fresh from the back seat, circling Target, inhaling reminders.
Copyright Anne Isaaks, 2012. All rights reserved.