By Sean Callahan
It’s September of 2015, and my cousin is determined to show me how to ride a longboard properly. I want to do it, but I can’t get my legs to come to an agreement with my body on how to balance before they send me falling to the pavement. I preferred staying on my bike, where I had the most control, and was least likely to become the next traffic collision. I’ve been practicing as much as I can lately. I’m trying to keep my balance on the longboard, but the little bruises on my elbows and knees reflect my repeated failures.
I fall again, and again, and again. But each failure let me see what I was doing wrong. As my mistakes go away, I’m finally able to get down our street without falling. My cousin decides I’m good enough for going down a hill. My nerves are tensing as we approach the dip of the hill. My brain is tingling with paranoia and my eyes are darting around in all directions. I can see straight down the path around the storm drain, the lines of pine trees, but I’m still worrying about running into an unsuspecting car. I grit my teeth together, hesitating, but forcing myself to trust my cousin. She’d gone down this hill plenty of times without accidents on her own longboard.
Sure enough, the ride isn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be. With the help of my cousin, we keep an eye out for cars, and I slowly glide down the hill. When I know no cars are coming, I close my eyes and feel the Fall wind embrace every inch of my face. It overwhelms the sun’s heat, making me forget that it was eighty degrees outside. The wind invades the inside of my T-shirt. As I slow to a stop at the intersection of streets, I sigh happily.
We do more streets, more hills around our neighborhood. Then, we came to a long hill leading straight down to a street on the right. In front of me, waiting at the bottom is the curb of the sidewalk and an enormous bush. Instead of making the turn my defective longboard decides to let me bounce off the sidewalk and hug the bush. My cousin laughs. I scowl, brush off the dirt and twigs, and go back up to do the hill again. Two more tries and I make the sharp turn. I feel childish, as if I am claiming every street as my own territory. I do the same thing with many other hills and streets, and I boast about it to myself. You can finally longboard without becoming roadkill! You can glide down hills and not die, yay!
When the sun is setting in the horizon, my cousin says she has one last hill she wants to show me. We stop in the middle of the intersection leading to my street, and I don’t see a street I don’t recognize.
“Here,” my cousin says, pointing up towards the line of houses.
But I know she’s not pointing at the houses. She’s pointing up a really steep driveway, leading to someone’s house. I cringe, and angle my neck up at the top of the driveway. I start to walk up the hill and my legs are only gaining inches as I reach the top, showing me how steep it really is.
“You’re not serious,” I say to my cousin.
She places her longboard down on the top of the hill. She demonstrates her going down, and I clench my teeth at how quickly she speeds into the grass of a neighbor’s backyard. She comes back to me. “It’s easy. See?”
I put down my board. My heart is beating faster. I’m certain I’m going to wipe out. I’m going to break my head, I’m going to do a complete backflip and splatter my brains all over the pavement.
“Just do it, it’ll be okay,” She says again.
“I’m not doing this,” I say, shaking my head.
After several frustrated attempts of trying to get me to do it, my outraged cousin takes back her longboard, and storms home. That night, I went to sleep upset, wishing I’d rode down that hill.
The next day, after school, I’m feeling the intense need to redeem myself. I go back to the hill alone. I pray and place my longboard down. I put my feet on both sides evenly, take a deep breath, and edge my way to the hills’ dip.
In seconds, I’ve landed successfully in the grass with both head and brains intact. And I laugh, thinking about how stupid I was to believe I couldn’t learn how to ride a longboard.