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Balancing Act

I slammed the door, even though no one was in the house to hear it.  Just my dad, working out in the garage like he always does.  How can a couple motorcycles need that much maintenance anyways?  What about me?

I wanted to punch a wall.  And break my hand in the process.  Then he’d feel sorry.

But the reality of that awkward age between naïve kindergartener and rebellious teenager is that you aren’t afforded many possibilities when it comes to dealing with your emotions. 

So I shut myself up in the only space I had, my corner room with the tiny latch put on the door to give an illusion of security.  And I looked around, not even knowing what for.

I saw a giant stuffed bear, weary with age, that we had gotten at a garage sale.  I saw picture frames full of a younger me, fishing or hiking or playing baseball, doing those things more for him than for me.  I saw the precariously large Lego set that I had saved up for months to buy.  And I saw a solitary juggler’s ball.

There was my target.

My dad knew how to juggle, and he had tried to teach me once.  They were a Christmas gift from Grandpa Phil, and the instant the last shred of wrapping paper was pulled off we had opened them.  All I remember was my hands being too small to do it.

This juggling ball didn’t mean anything to me before this moment.  But now it was my target, and I pounced.

 I flung it to the ground, as hard as I could.  Over and over.  The seams between the patches of blue and yellow and red began to wear.  Again, harder still.  I wanted it to break open and spill out all over the room, cover every inch.  

But it wasn’t that easy.  The ball wouldn’t just split, it was made to stay together through such torment.  So I looked around again.  There’s gotta be something I can use. 

The nearest thing I can find is a little plastic pen.  I aim for the seams and stab.  Nothing.  Again.  Again.  There! Little pink and blue beads spill out.  

I thought it would be satisfying to see that ball bleed pink and blue.  But it wasn’t.  Even though I was alone, I felt embarrassed for some reason.  This wasn’t me, I don’t do these kinds of things.  I was the calm one, the mature one, never any trouble, I remember a teacher saying once.  And now, this? Now I couldn’t even learn to juggle if I wanted to.  I wished I hadn’t done it.  I wished it would just go away.  So I swept the remains with my hand into a CD case and zipped it shut.  And didn’t open it for many years. 

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5 responses to “Balancing Act

  1. liuleslie

    Justin,
    Great narrative. I enjoyed how the story was driven by emotions. In the beginning anger directed you slamming the door, wanting to punch the wall and tearing up the juggling ball while the end was led by emotions of shame. You mentioned in your reflection that you wanted to leave some things unstated. I think you totally nailed it. Your short story did not explain too much nor need any further explanation. After reading it, I felt that there was a parallel between your story of destroying a ball and someone participating in a murder. I don’t know if you intended it to be this way but it seemed almost like a children’s version of a murder story. You felt angry, destroyed something, then felt ashamed and regretted it. Additionally, I felt that your topic was interesting and the perspective you brought in a younger self was very fun to read.

  2. Justin,

    I love the inward commentary/dialogue that you with yourself throughout the piece. It really bestows upon the piece a sense of honest introspection, and I can feel the murmur of thoughts in the silence of your room when you shut yourself in, alone. Also, there are a couple of subtle things that you include into your piece that highlight the relationship that you have with your father: the aside about you going on hikes and trips more for him than for you, your question at the beginning of the piece about motorcycles. Lastly, I wasn’t really sure what it was about the colors of the pink and blue beads, but they really stuck out to me because they contrasted heavily with the general “color” of the piece, if I may venture to say so. It was an ominous touch, whether intentional or not, and all of that was touched off with your great ending about not opening the CD case for many years. I really enjoyed that vague and abrupt ending. There is no real sense of resolution or finality, but I reveled in it. In any case, great work! This was really an exceptional narrative.

  3. joopsters

    Justin
    Very well written piece. I’m surprised you were able to convey so much emotion since as you yourself said this is out of character. But perhaps there’s much more going on inside than outside. As a piece, the emotional build up is very well done. I really like the flow of the piece, its simple but to the point. I didn’t have to read it twice because I was so sucked into the moment without being overwhelmed. Your captures the moment adequately while incorporating details of the past here and there to make this a very real moment. You weaved so many elements together to convey your emotions without ever once saying “i was angry”. Kudos!b

  4. Justin,

    I love how far this narrative has come, yet all the while, the story still holds that same raw emotion that makes it so powerful. It’s the reason you chose this memory, and as you write in your reflection, it is the reason writing can be so enlightening. Often times writing is driven by emotion, particularly anger, but you do a wonderful job here to capture the very essence of that frustration. I still love your closing line because it brings closure in that you are revisiting the memory, and just thinking back on it in a sense shows that the memory still lives in you. Great work from start to finish.

  5. This is my first time reading the piece, and I really like it. It definitely fits the category of a narrative, and I see now what Ms. Hammons was saying about each piece having a certain “voice.” I can hear your childhood voice through this piece, which is made clear by your inner dialogue, descriptive words (pounced, stab, target, etc.), and the emotions described. I really like that this paper doesn’t have some huge point to it. It’s just a memory. It’s just a way that you saw yourself. You questioned who you were and what this behavior was. It’s very real, and I can certainly relate to it. Solid stuff man

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