The first time I saw him I was upside down. I hung from my knees on an old apple tree, viewing the world like a possum. It happened suddenly, a kind of summer magic. He stepped into my upside-down picture, blinking wide at me. I studied him carefully: A wrong side-up boy of ten, with a curly lump of hair on his catawampus head. “Hi” he said. I shushed him with my finger pressed firm to my lips. “I’m talking to God.”
He climbed up the tree, tucked his knees behind the fat branch and swung backwards next to me. We stared at each other, bottoms-up, red faced, hair full of static and air. In silence we talked to God, our bellies exposed to the breeze. We dropped like cherry bombs when our heads swam too heavy.
He came the next day to the twisted apple tree, and hung upside- down next to me. All summer we swung, overturned, talking to God, never knowing each others’ lopsided prayers. I memorized the way his long nose twitched in the summer air – how his red hair lopped to the left and covered his scabby ear. He always fought gravity from pulling his shirt too far toward his head.
One summer day I swung alone, my stomach soaking in sunlight, whispering my wrong-side out prayers on the other side of gravity. Four days I passed without him, hanging from the apple tree, wishing he was next to me. On the fifth day he walked into my upside down prayer, one of his brown eyes circled in fading blue. He climbed the tree in silence. I watched him swing, smaller somehow, unsteady in the breeze.
Eyes closed in our space above the ground; he laced his fingers with mine. Hand in hand, we hovered away from the right-side up. He kept his eyes shut tight as he prayed, then looked to a merciless sun. A tear slid down his long nose and landed on a blade of yellow grass below.
Later that evening an autumn breeze chased away the sun, pushed aside the apple air, and colored the green leaves red.
I can see now how the wind moved us, why we needed the world on its head.
The last time I saw him I was up-side-down, hanging alone in his unanswered prayers.
Written by Amanda Flaker