Looks can be deceiving. I’m standing on the playground, a black jump rope stretched taught in my hands, and I see you look at me. Your eyes pause on my face and I watch the fear register on yours. You come closer and dart for your pretty little daughter. You snatch her off the see-saw where she sits next to my Sammy. She hasn’t done anything wrong but you yank her arm too hard. “Come on, sweetie,” you say too loudly and too sweetly, then you turn and glance at me again, smiling out of fear. I haven’t moved. I’m still holding the jump rope, standing there watching you judge me.
You pull your little daughter along behind you and high-tail it along the sidewalk like I’m after you. “No, Mama! You’re hurtin’ me,” your little darling cries in tow. I’m not after you. I’m just watching, tugging the jump rope even tighter. I grimace at you. You disgust me.
You probably don’t know what to think of me. You must think I’m somebody’s creepy uncle or worse, a stranger lurking here on the play lot. You want to dismiss me. You see me silhouetted dark against the sky, you take in that blue like pain, your eyes register the taughtness of the rope. You probably can’t actually do the math, what with your literature degree, you can’t balance out how much pleasure I take from the taught black rope in my hands. You just see the symbolism and rule out dad.
You don’t know much. You don’t know how much my Sammy likes it, after I’ve isolated him, after he jumps for me, after I’ve tied his hands behind his back with the jump rope. After we move together through the pain, you have no idea how much he likes my gentleness. You don’t know how I talk him through it: “You’re a good boy, Sammy. Yes, Sammy, you like this, don’t you. I love you, Sammy.” You don’t get to see him smile when I tickle him, no. It’s different than the smile you see on the see-saw. My Sammy has a special smile just for me and you can’t ever see it.
You don’t know the half of it. You think the rope in my hands is just an aberration, but you’re wrong. I’ve had this rope in my hands for how long now? Looks can be deceiving. Relationships are complicated. I watch you yank your little sweetie along by her arm as you dart away in fear and I smile.