I’ll catch you

It’s only a mile down the road, 
you said, 
you were wrong, 
five miles later in that summer sun, 
turned around twice, 
footpaths veering downhill, 
that can’t be right, I’m sorry, 
you said,
let’s try again– 
When we left the house that morning 
I’d asked what to wear– 
you said I’d be fine in that blue dress I liked 
so long it sweeps my feet, 
you were wrong, 
legs now caked in red dust 
in sandals not built for hiking, then, 
finally unveiled, 
that fire tower on the edge of the world 
or at least our Germany. 
You saw its spire on the horizon
early that afternoon 
and swerved the wheel toward it. 
It looks like a straight shot, 
you said, of course 
you were wrong, later
when our wheels bucked on cobblestone streets, 
impossibly narrow, 
circling endlessly, 
like the corners of my mouth 
in a grin, along for the ride. 
But now, 
you’ve got to be kidding me,  
I said, 
knees weak, 
wind whipping skirts in a frenzy already 
a threat to tear me from the very earth 
fear held me locked to– 
I’ll climb with you 
you said, 
with sudden gentle patience 
reserved for the rockiest mountain slopes,  
overpasses and bridges 
your sense of adventure swept me up 
before I remembered to feel afraid. 
You stood on the hard-packed dirt 
beneath an I-beam once 
when we were sixteen 
with skinny confidence 
and shouted, 
Jump! Trust me! I’ll catch you! 
and I did. 
So now, 
with baby steps and that same 
white-knuckled trust 
after all these years 
I climbed, 
you backward, 
with that effortless ease 
eyes locked on mine 
testing for bravery– 
I knew you’d be faster without me, 
but that wasn’t the point, 
Can you feel your heart beating? 
That’s how you know you’re alive, 
you said,
voice ripped from your mouth by wind 
and spiraled into clouds. 
Before I knew it, 
I had spiraled up with it 
to the little wooden platform 
at the very top 
where the world spilled out in all directions 
so alive 
so small 
where how far we had come looked like nothing at all.
My legs shook and I sank to my knees 
but you hauled me to my feet, 
I’ve got you, 
you said, 
I caught you.

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