The Rope

I wasn’t even that fat.  Most of it was in my mind more than my belly.

I don’t know who this guy is, but I sure wanted to look like him!

Middle School.
In my memory, the thick rope in gym class went from two feet off the floor to about a hundred feet in the air until it hit the ceiling where it was barely visible.  In reality, I would guess, it was probably was 20 or 25 feet high.  Every kid’s goal was to climb to the top of that rope and hang out for a bit at the ceiling staring down at all there envious classmates looking like ants below.
I had been a skinny kid for most of elementary school, but I was raised by an overweight mother.  I knew the taste of weight watcher’s ice cream when it first came out which was like a chewy chemical wasteland.  She taught me how to stuff my emotions with food at a young age.  She shared her depression and her eating disorder with me.  At some point, I was almost certain to become fat.
By the time I had come to middle school in Northfield, Vermont, we had moved 5 times and I was starting to give up on certain things like finding new friends and taking care of my body.
I was getting pudgy.
Yet inside of me was an athlete.  I knew it.
My tiny school of 300 had the Vermont gymnastics champion as one of it’s students.  I loved to watch him as he held his body in a perfect t on the o-rings and effortlessly swing from side to side on the parallel bars with his immaculate muscular arms and land perfectly on the mats with the resounding applause of the student body.  The thing that was inspiring about him was that he only had one leg.
If a one legged gymnast could become state champion surely a slightly overweight out of shape teen could make it up that rope in gym class.
I tried all of two times to make it up that rope.  The first time I made it a few feet up until my muscleless arms started to tremble.  The rope had a different smell from anything I had smelled before.  It was pungent, like it had come a long ways, it smelled like adventure.  I held on tight knowing full well there wasn’t enough strength in my to go any further.  I didn’t have enough strength to come down one arm at a time so instead I just slid down, my arms burning on the rough, prickly outer skin of the thick twine.
I wish this was a story of triumph, of me getting to the top and giving a loud whoop to all the kids below, but a few weeks later I tried again and had the same result.  A sinking feeling was rising in me.  My ship was going down.
We lived in Northfield, Vermont for two years and then we moved on yet again.  I never touched one of those ropes again.

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