When I was younger I occasionally liked to fly kites from my yard, which was unusually large and offered plenty of runway to put it in the air and room to get it over the treetops. My success was moderate and more often than not a down draft would ground it on top of the neighbor’s roof before I could get any distance.
But one day, when I was 13 or so, all the elements for kite flying – tail construction, wind speed and direction – must have been in perfect order because the kite hung like it had wings of its own, stretching out with almost perfect string tension, hardly a waiver in the sky and so I began to ease more and more line out. It didn’t matter how much string I let out, the tension held and the kite itself began to get smaller and smaller; still visible but this time if it came down it was going to spare the neighbor’s roof and end up in another neighborhood entirely.
I had been out in the yard for so long that my mother and her boyfriend Tom came out to see the marvelous flight of this kite and eventually, after running through a very large amount of string on a reel, we tied a new reel onto the old and by now the kite was but a speck on the horizon that you might not even notice if you weren’t holding onto the other end of it.
Eventually hours passed and dusk was making it difficult to even see the thing but the string was up and the speck barely visible when my mother went inside the house and soon after Tom and I were distracted by an argument coming from the basement. Through the window I could see father #2 gesturing wildly and yelling this and that and I knew he was drunk again and making a stop-off at our house, which he did once in a while, to show off his alcohol-induced manhood. He was a gentle man while sober but took on this absurd tough guy persona when inebriated beyond all reason.
Seeing all of this, Tom left me to go inside and aid my mother in whatever craziness was going on and I watched the window, still holding onto the kite like a lifeline. The kite was pulling harder but I held tight as the argument got worse and Tom shoved my dad in the chest.
Right then I hated that bastard boyfriend for laying a hand on my dad. He may have been drunk and belligerent but he was also ineffectual and cannon fodder for a larger man which Tom was. I knew what my dad was – damaged goods, but it hurt seeing him pushed around like a rag doll, and seeing it done by this lug with one tenth the character that my dad had even on his drunkest day, left me with nothing but anger.
I just wanted that asshole to keep his hands off my dad but I couldn’t let go of the kite string to say or do anything. I was frozen. It was so dark by now that all I had was a string with no kite in view and only the thought that it must still be aloft because there was tension on the line leading upwards. Because we had let out so much string it was probably literally miles away by now. But as the kite faded from sight the basement window seemed to get larger and take on the presence of a television screen.
I was frozen solid.
I couldn’t move to stop the frenzy in the window because I was tethered to a piece of string – a piece of nothingness at this point and I felt only loss, humiliation, shame and anger. The entire heated exchange probably didn’t last that long but it seemed like hours had gone by and I just stood there.
After my dad had gone, I held onto the string for a while longer, seeing only the first 30 feet or so, staring into the blackness, distracting myself by trying to imagine what house or business the kite was hovering over. Would I find it in the distant schoolyard in the morning? Maybe it would make the papers as folks traced the miles of string back to my house.
As much as I didn’t want to do it, I finally just let go and the string whipped out of my hand and was gone like it was fleeing the scene of a crime but I was never able to let go of that image through the basement window and when the kite left forever I’m sure that a piece of me went with it.