If I Imagine It…
by Galadriel Watson
The rope does not move. It lies at my feet, as inanimate as a skipping rope should be, like a snake skin shed of life. I am eight. I concentrate. I will the rope to move. I am in the school’s sports equipment storage room, a nook beside the stairs to the third floor. I am with a friend, and it is our job to supervise other kids signing in and out equipment over recess—a soccer ball, a hula-hoop, a baseball. In our downtime, we practice our telepathic powers. I will the rope to move. I am not successful. I practice again next recess. My friend practices. Determination, we are sure, will make it happen. We try a different activity: one at a time, we think of one of the objects in the room and then, with mind power alone, tell the other which it is. Sometimes we guess right.
When I am 10, my mother, aunt, and I move into a new house. My bedroom is in the basement, with a long trek down a dimly lit hall to the bathroom. Inevitably, I have to go to the bathroom at night. My imagination conjures up ghosts and decaying bodies—if I imagine them, they will come. My cat Brandy sleeps with me. When I have to go to the bathroom, I tug him out of sleep too. I hold him before me, under his armpits, my own arms straight, his back legs dangling, tail curled between. He is used to this. He travels the hallway before me, warding off evil. I am afraid anyways. My mother and aunt sleep two floors away. If I scream, will they hear me?
A drunk driver. An abduction. A school shooting. As a parent, these are the things I fear. If I think of one of these, even by mistake, it may happen. I knock on wood constantly. I think you’re supposed to knock on wood when you speak about something good, to make sure you haven’t jinxed yourself, but I knock on wood when I think of something bad, to beg the spirits not to let it happen. I own a wooden-bead bracelet. I wear it on long car rides, since wood in cars is scarce. Sometimes, on bad nights, I knock again and again on my bedside table. To be able to sleep, I fetch the bracelet and slip it on my wrist, so each shift in bed will jostle the beads against my skin—a dormant person’s knock.
I am not all paranoia. I also believe in the motto, “If you build it, they will come.” In other words, if I leap, the world will catch me. The last time I leaped, I quit my permanent job, relocated with my family from a city to a small town, and took a five-month maternity-leave job, hoping not to starve. Five months later, the maternity-leave job became a fifteen-month contract job. Fifteen months after that, the contract job became a permanent job. We didn’t starve. Now, six years later, I leap again. I have left that permanent job to return to school and pursue my creative interests. Will the world catch me? I have faith it will.
I always knew that someday the skipping rope would budge.