To prove our love, we strung the tightrope across the backyard. We climbed on at opposite ends. The boughs of the two elms sagged with our weight. We steadied ourselves against the trunks; we each goaded the other to go first. Neither of us would let go of the branches above. Our love, if it had ever existed, evaporated. We were two boys. Two boys at a stalemate.
Only one of us knew whose backyard this was. That one of us boys was the nephew of the owner. The other boy lived across town, in a small apartment with his mother. She had little knowledge of her son’s desire for the other boy. She found her son aloof, uninterested in the things a boy his age should like. Both of us had heard her confess this concern to her family. Both of us had dismissed it.
We’d met at our high school’s Circus Club. We cemented our friendship over failed attempts to juggle and lob foam pies at cardboard faces. The club president kicked us out. We were glad. We told him we were starting a Daredevil Club. We would one-up that doe-eyed killjoy. Late afternoons, we flung darts at squirrels, jumped off one-story rooftops, made the crazed neighborhood pit bull chase us.
We were still at a stalemate when the owner of the land approached the tightrope. He knew one of us was his nephew, but he didn’t let on. He drew a knife from the leather holster on his belt and staggered to the middle of the rope. He glanced each way, then grabbed the rope, pressed the blade against the braided sisal. He snarled we had one last chance. We stayed silent, and he began to cut. As the rope frayed, we glanced at each other, felt love rekindled. We outstretched our arms, placed one foot in front of the other, and ran along the tightrope to the center as fast as we could.