Tuesday, December 05, 2006

This Used To Be My Playground

We all started out playing on the same playground. We were happy there, and protected. There was a tall chain link fence all the way around. We were confident of the strength of all the things we touched and played with, the ground firm beneath our feet, always room for just one more on the tire swing. The tire swing was everybody's favorite.

Our numbers began depleting when we got older. A few ran away, claiming a need for escape. Others swore they were chased out. Everyone claimed a reason, everyone had a story.

There was one who was battered and beaten, another was racked with a pain she couldn't deal with any other way, a third was always in and out for her own various and vague reasons. One claimed he'd never been there to begin with, another claimed he was still there when he really wasn't. And then there was her. She had always been tormented by shifting ground, mini-earthquakes that caused her to trip and stumble. But she stayed on the playground bc she didn't know anywhere else, and she didn't want to venture into unknown territory unless she was sure.

I was the strong one. Always so sure, an answer for everything, never faltering for a minute, and completely unable to comprehend the loved ones around me who faded in and out, away and around, without any very concrete explanations. I kept asking people why they were leaving, demanding an argument I could understand, but they were unable to explain.

So I remained secure. Happy and confident in my rightful place, I continued to play in the sandbox, on the slides, the tire swing. The tire swing had always been everyone's favorite.

One day I did slip. I hadn't slept well in days, maybe weeks, and one morning I woke up, and the playground had been vandalized. The fence had been torn down in places, the slides were grafitied, the swings had been all looped over the top bar. There was glass in the sandbox. Even the tire swing had been slashed. I could feel the ground slipping out from under me and everything was just hanging in this weightless, rootless void. The playground suddenly felt homesick and abandoned. It was the first time I had actually seen the possibility that I wasn't in the right place, the safe place.

But then I woke up the next day and everything had righted itself, intact, in place, as if nothing had happened at all. Everything back to normal, with no ramifications, explanations, or excuses, and no damage to control.

And so it continued. While various other former members of the playground gang drifted around, I manned it, held down the fort so to speak, waiting for people to come back and visit, or maybe, I hoped, to stay.

She was always more or less there. She never really went anywhere. But she struggled a lot, just beyond the fence. She figured out various things on her own. Various other things she gave up on. She said she always came back for the tire swing. The tire swing was everybody's favorite.

And then my turn came. It wasn't quite the same as the last time.
The playground wasn't vandalized or destroyed like the last time. It was simply that I was seeing it truly for once. For the first time, I noticed the barbed wire and watch towers that surrounded it. For the first time, I noticed the blood stains in the sandbox and on the woodchip piles. The ground was still there, but it was no longer solid. It was still the right place, and yet no longer safe. The security of the playground was suddenly false - it wouldn't protect me from the world, even though the fence was still there. It was simply no longer trustworthy. It was fallible.

As I searched desperately for a place to sit and hide my face a bit, I noticed her sitting on the swings. I went over and took the swing beside her.
"So," I said.
"Yup," she said.
"This is what you meant the whole time?"
"This is it. Welcome to real life, babe."
"It's really, really cold."
She pulled out an extra sweater and tossed it to me. "I came prepared," she said.
"And it hurts like hell."
"Yeah. That bit gets a little better with time, but it never really goes away."

We sat in silence for a really long time. It wasn't that it was wrong. But it had turned from our little paradise into a prison, and the fact that it was right was partly what made it so. It may be hell, but there was nowhere else to go.

"So...what do we do now?"
She shrugged. "I don't know..." We stared reflectively at the woodchips while I tried to determine by the shade of red exactly how old the bloodstains were. Fifteen years? Sixty? Two thousand?

"We could go play on the tire swing," she suggested.

So that was what we did.


Blogger tobie said...

Powerful imagery. You see, for me, it was never quite a playground. I was the girl who hovered around the sides, maybe with her face pressed against the gaps in the chain-link fence. I'd come in and play, sure, and obviously I had fun on the tire swing. And obviously, I didn't know about the bloodstains, didn't suspect about the barbed wire on the fences. But I never really made the assumptions about the playground, never ran around carefree and played in it unthinkingly. By the time I saw the bloodstains, I had long since decided that there was more to the playground than just playing, that the playground could well be a complicated and scary place.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

That's so post-modern, I don't even know what it's not mocking.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

it wasn't mocking anything....except certain people's noses.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Really good post. But for some reason , I'm having trouble with that tire swing...

8:58 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

so, at first I meant it to mean something but wasn't sure what exctly. then I thought, it could just be a tire swing. I mean, whoo doesn't like tire swings? but if it is symbolic, I think the closest thing it could be would be Israel. that's my current interpretation. what do you think?

1:09 PM  

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