Flying, bicycles and black trash bags

Photo courtesy of Daniel Gordon’s “Flying Pictures” project. To view more images from Daniel Gordon’s “Flying Pictures” project, click here. Click here for an article about the project featured in The New Yorker.

Ad Augusta Per Angusta (“To High Places By Narrow Roads”)

I couldn’t help but think of my older brother and black plastic garbage bags these past few days. They have been blustery, windy days and the gust of their winds blew me right back to the day my brother Thom promised to take me flying on his bike.

I was six years old and I was skeptical. I was not cynical by nature but doubtful by rights. I wanted to believe him when he said that all he had to do was angle his bicycle the right way and with me holding tightly to him and with the large black plastic garbage bag we took from the cupboard tied around my shoulders, off we’d go.

So, perched precariously and wearing “wings” of hope and plastic, I rode into the storm behind my brother. I tried to ignore my doubts and prepared myself to fly. I imagined how we would need to steer clear of the telephone wires lining the road — wouldn’t want to get tangled up in those. I pictured myself landing on top of our rooftop and running around up there; pictured my mother’s face (in my imagination filled with pride) and my other sibling’s looks (in my imagination filled with envy) when they discovered our accomplishment.

I did my part. I hung on tight. I lifted my butt off the seat frequently and energetically, instinctively feeling that rising up on my part would encourage the same of the bicycle. I angled the bag strategically with my shoulders and shouted encouragement to Thom.

The last thing I remember is a cloaking blackness overwhelming my senses. Yes, there was a tragic fall.  Yes, I was knocked out by either (to this day we are not sure) the plastic bag cutting off my oxygen or the knock to my head when we crashed the bike. And if you can believe it, for the longest time, I really thought we had taken flight. I don’t mean the “Wicked Witch of the West” kind of flight — peddling through the air. I mean I distinctly recalled lifting free of the ground and being airborne.

Come to find out, this sibling version of the flight of Daedalus and Icarus did involve a small break with gravity. It happened when we launched into the air after we hit a bump in the road that acted like a ramp and sent us flying.

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