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Feather Board

Photo: Writer’s Friend.

The universe conspired that day to bring about a group of friends from various circles. No one knows exactly how these things happen. People who would normally never seek each other find themselves together, enjoying. The varied personalities stabilize each other, and ground becomes common. Guards down. As those involved afterward go on living, the salience of the memory fades. They would never deny the happening. Still, its fragrance takes a more dream-like flavor. You know what I mean. You dream, too.

They unwind that evening, circled in one of their homes after a day out of unusual vulnerability and diversion. They represent varied demographics and perspectives, even ages. In all their uncharacteristic but timely openness, one of them mentions a game they used to play as a young one. Somebody lies face-up, and the others sit around them, lifting them up with two fingers from each hand. More often talked about than played. We seem to want permission for such things.

It is a hard, choosing whether to be “the middle person.” We assure ourselves, and each other, We all get a turn. We also know the world does not keep track of turns. And first impressions matter: Being supported first affects how we support others. That person will be marked, different from the other lifters. No longer working with a community, less fun. Still, someone volunteers.

The faces of the others bear down on the supine body before them. For a paranoid moment, the volunteer expects the bearing faces to reveal that it was all a ruse, they have orchestrated, they all know each other, and need to ritually sacrifice human. But this passes.

The prepwork is awkward, with wriggling and double-checking. All set? Not yet, not yet. And then, very gently, Hey… this is working…

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As is common, the first feelings are of surprise: The ease it requires to lift a grown human. At first the ease, and the surprise, are pleasing. Soon though, some members of the group grow bored. What challenge is this? they think. They release their fingers from the body for a moment, and see no difference. They touch their fingers to the body again, and feel no weight. My efforts are meaningless. I have no purpose here. You will fare fine without me, they think.

Others, similarly bored, try another tactic. They push harder, so as feel the weight, to affirm their effort. I need difficulty to validate myself, they think in their hearts.

Some focus on only the body part they themselves are lifting. If everyone focuses on their own situation, the body will reach equilibrium on its own.

Some look at the whole body, attempting to level their own part with the opposite side. Our actions must be informed by environmental context.

Some are not bored at all, but thrilled — by novelty, by success, by the dashing responsibility. Why are others not engaging?

They speak out:
“I don’t really feel anything.”
“Hold up, hooold up.”
“This tickles.”
“Move over, yo, give me some space.”
“Slow. Down!”
“We are all over the place.”
“We need to coordinate.”
“You’re pushing too fast!”
“This is so wild.”
“We can’t go down — Push up!”
“Focus on the center of gravity.”

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“Support the head, too, the neck is important.”
“Everyone breathe.”
“I think we should start over.”
“I’m out.”
“Push harder!”
“Get your fingers out of my butt!”
“We got this, just everyone freeze for a second.”
Where are you going?”
“This is starting to get heavy.”
“Chill. Focus on yourself.”
“I wasn’t feeling anything.”
“Can we please pause?”
“I am not feeling the vibe right now.”
“I can’t get over this.”
“Don’t shush me. I have a voice.”
“I am holding up my own leg right now…”
“We need to think.”
“Who put you in charge?”
“I think we need to feel through this, actually.”
“No one else was stepping up.”
“Let’s figure this out together.”
“Aren’t we doing that?”
“We need to organize.”
“I do not know how much longer I can hold.”
“Whoa whoa whoa!”
“Push push p-”

The group shouts. The volunteer tilts toward the ground. They slow the descent enough to place without harming, and the body awkwardly touches down, lying flat, recollecting balance. The system collapses.

They share a breath. Tired. They laugh, assess. They decide to not retry, but rather finish the evening with snacks. They refer to the activity in jest for the remainder of the night. For the rest of their lives, when two of them run into each other, they will refer to that night. The confirmation from someone else will briefly strengthen the memory, turning the ephemeral into something less… imaginary. It may even be nostalgic validation of a life-well lived.

Everyone of them will live believing that they failed.

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