My older brother tried to kill me. Twice.
        A rope was involved on both occasions. The first time he used an old extension cord—50 feet of traffic orange, plastic-covered wire that was strong enough to suspend a small boy from the second-story window of a four-bedroom home in a nice neighborhood in small town Ohio.
        My brother had heard about a new sport called rappelling and wanted very much to “try this at home.” He acted as counterweight, belaying the subject—me—in a harness constructed from metal thingamajigs fished out of a random basement drawer.
        For twenty minutes I dangled my legs out of our bedroom window, fighting the survival instinct while my brother taunted me and grew tired of my whimpering.
        “Just go,” he insisted, reminding me that all was safe: the cord was knotted to our bunk beds—nothing could go wrong.
        Somehow I released my white knuckles from the white vinyl ledge that was covered with dead mosquitoes, tightening the cord around my waist until all my inner organs squeeze north and south like playdough in a toddler’s fist.
        My brother shouted encouraging words to me about the important life skills that I would acquire—how I would know how to get out of our room if there was ever a fire in our house, or rather, when there was a fire in our house. Fire Safety Week at school had convinced me that our house would burn down any day now, and that only by leaving behind my singed Cabbage Patch doll and stopping, dropping, and rolling would I ever live to see the seventh grade.
        Pretending to escape a devastating house fire kept me breathing through the first two feet of descent. And then my brother simply let go. Whether it was a test in Newtonian physics—or the accident he later claimed it was—he dropped me. It was the only time that I have successfully completed a back flip as I tumbled down, down to land on my mother’s newly-planted shrubbery, snapping it’s weak spruce neck at the base.
        I lived. Alas, my mother’s shrubbery did not.
        My older brother only peered out the window and shouted at met to get up. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak—my mouth was filled with wet mulch and parts of my body had disappeared into pain.
        “Get up, get up! You’re fine!” he commanded, but I was not fine. No broken bones, no hemorrhaging, but shattered just the same. Intentional or not, my brother had tried to kill me, leaving a sledgehammer-sized dent in my fraternal trust.
        The second time he tried to kill me we were older and wiser—teenagers. My brother strung a hemp rope across the backyard, from the top of our tallest oak tree to a smaller, flimsier tree a few hundred yards away. He had heard about this great new thing called ziplining and wanted to try it himself. Once again, he constructed a harness and handlebar from metal thingamajigs fished out of a random basement drawer. Once again, and despite serious reservations on my part, I was commissioned as test pilot. Once again, I cowered for twenty minutes, trying to decide between fight or flight—quite literally. I finally caved into big brother pressure and was made to fling myself forward and zip across the great green Ohio landscape down below . . .
        . . . except the rope snapped. Audibly. I fell a good twenty feet and landed on my back, a bundle of tree roots slamming up into my ribcage. Euphemisms came true: time stopped, the wind was knocked from my lungs—my body had abandoned the breath of life high up in the atmosphere, and there it hung—my last breath—suspended some ten feet above me.
        And then my life flashed before my eyes, exactly as the experience is always described by humans on the verge of death: everything I had been, seen, or done or had done to me—it all came rushing past the screen of my mind like a continuous fast-forward of a late-night music video on MTV Europe. Time stopped, my eyes bulged out, the sky became ultra blue, the clouds failed to move. I swear I saw crows circling downward. Caw, caw. My tender little life was finished.
Page 1 2 3 4