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"A Promise I Made and a Promise I Kept" by John Gower

Gary Miller

A promise I made and a promise I kept, is how I explained what became of me to my therapist. It started when I was five or so. After watching Peter Pan on TV I awoke with the distinct feeling that I could fly. I stood up blurry-eyed on my bed and put my arms out as Peter would do, fully expecting to lift right up off the ground. When it didn’t happen I didn’t tell anyone, I felt silly, it was silly. I kept the disappointment to myself.

All though my teens I continued to dream of flying. In the early years I would fly to the tops of trees but later my flying became more nuanced, more realistic, you might say. I would only fly about shoulder high or head high. My legs would lift off the ground tilting my body with my stomach and chest pointing downward. I regulated the distance from the floor to my stomach and chest with a pressure that came from calm quick breaths, the calmer I became the higher I could go, but never so high that the pressure would become too thin from my body to the ground.

Now that I’ve retired and all my wives are gone I find myself, living the dream, as my youngest son is prone to say. I get up early and have a light breakfast then I walk the block and a half to the sandy shores of St. Petersburg where I grew up. The silence of the long stretch of sandy beach is interrupted only by the soothing sounds of rolling waves and the occasional caw from seagulls fighting over washed up scraps of food. I leave my sandals, shirt, and towel folded nice and neat on the shore and put on lots of sun screen and a beat up pair of sun glasses with an attached nose guard that I found on a bench one day and then I swim far enough out that I won’t be bothered by the troubled world of the shore. And my legs lift up and my body tilts, but instead of flying I float, my stomach and chest pointing upward toward the sky and just as when I was young I regulate myself by calm quick breaths keeping pressure in my stomach and chest. I don’t have to move a finger or a foot. I am free. My ears are underwater and I watch the clouds and feel the pull both downward and upward. I float in my breaths and float in the current and float in the sky. I can do this for hours, both in the morning and again at sunset. Just over head the pelicans and I are one as they float home to roost.  

I tell my therapist I’m happy but she seems to think I’m depressed. I’ve come full circle. It’s a promise I made and a promise I kept. There’s something about flying and floating and dreaming that makes me whole. I suppose it’s because there is nothing rational about it that makes me love it so.

Writing this is like floating, like flying, like dreaming. I row around in my head and time disappears. I am absorbed. Anything can happen. I go backward in time, forward in time. Sometimes I’m just right here, right now. I can regulate my words by my breathing. I feel myself beginning to float. My legs lift off the ground. I am chest high, body facing downward. The pressure in my chest, in my stomach, in my writing, keeps me afloat.