To start a cartwheel, brace yourself. A strong foundation like the reflective tile of a classroom floor will do. Lift your arms above your head. There is no muscle on them. Nothing to hold your weight up with--only kids do cartwheels. Hear voices behind you, two guys and a girl. They sit lightly on top of waxy English desks eagerly watching, afraid that the unsteady desk would tip over--cartwheels only hold an audience of up to three. Two voices are cheering you on, the other pierces through the crowd of three with disbelief: You can’t do one. Your arms still trying to touch the sky, you look deeply into the eyes of the person that doesn’t believe--there is always one. Say: Yes I can. He is the one that says it. The guy that you’ve had a crush on since 6th grade. Since the day you saw his brown eyes that sparkled without the sun’s help. His light skin made you wonder what he was composed of. Say yes in a manner that makes them think that you can. That makes him believe that you can. Say it loudly. Voice confidence. Make sure to hold the can for an extra second or two. It’s sassy.
However, sassiness does not compensate for strength. Strength to do a cartwheel. Strength to ignore the looks that they have begun giving you--except for his. Bring your hands (palms facing down) to the floor and swing your legs clockwise around you. This is the fun part. This is the scary part. Where the world is upside down and everything that you thought was right is the opposite. Where everything you thought was bad is good. You can’t quite see straight. You’re unsure if you ever want to see straight again. Savor this feeling.
He is your twist. He is your turn. The way you waited for his text messages curled up on the couch. The smell of your mother’s stew chicken filling the room alongside the football reporter’s analyst on television. The text came two days later. The way you rushed to him every day in the lunch line--skipping tens of people--arguing that you were stronger than him. The way he challenged that theory, by arm wrestling on the blacktops of the science tables at the end of the day. The attempt you made to switch hands when your right lost. The attempt you made to grasp his hands a little longer. The way he switched hands without a second thought.
The way he loved books. His hatred for book-to-film adaptations--Hunger Games was the only acceptable one. The way the vaseline glistened on his lips as he talked about the two in comparison during English, never taking his eyes off you. The way it was your vaseline that made his lips shine. The way you both sang to Charlie Puth’s “Attention” on the way home from band competitions. The tail-lights of cars speeding by in a blur. The way the right headphone was in his ear, the left one in yours. He was off-key and off-tempo, yet he swore on his foster home that he wasn't. You didn't mind either way. You never minded with him.
You never minded the way he got your attention when you were too busy gazing into his eyes--he aggressively snapped in your face. The smell of Axe body wash and soap teasing your nose. You never minded the way his face turned a candy apple red. The way the veins in his hands slowly showed more and more as he clenched his fist when someone spoke about his biological parents. You never minded when he gushed over his on-and-off girlfriend of middle school. You never minded when he asked you to help find gifts for her. Bracelets, promise rings, necklaces--you always wondered how he got the money. Gifts that meant “I love you,” without uttering those three words.
You always wanted him to say those words to you.
Realize that falling is a part of life. Falling in love. Falling out of love. It’s all like cartwheels. Brace yourself for it. Learn to love the feel of the cold tile through the back of your shirt--never attempt to do cartwheels outside, the grass is too soft, you won’t learn how to properly fall. You won’t feel how to properly fall. Realize that falling hurts in more places than you thought. The toes, the ankles, the legs, the thighs, the butt, the stomach, the spine, and the ribs. And the heart. Realize that you had fallen in love with him. Accept that you had fallen in love with him.
Convince yourself to tell him how you feel. One gentle knee, hand, shoulder touch at a time until your feet magically land back on the floor. And then in a blink of an eye, the world is back to the way it was. You become bored with the way the world looks in its natural state. So you repeat the steps. Over and over and over again. Looking at different people. Realizing them in a way that makes your heart hurt as if it’s fallen. And as you cartwheel, you realize something about twists and turns. They are meant to interrupt. They are meant to change your life.