Swings

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I’ve never broken anything. Not even a finger, or sprained an ankle.

I used to see people with casts on their arms and legs, and be envious. Their friends could write things on the white plaster, or draw little pictures, like stickmen or crashing cars, like they were signing a school yearbook. The injured couldn’t bath properly, so that was a bit of a novelty. Having baths with their casts hanging over the side of the tub. After the cast was off, you could always have a bit of a limp afterwards, or some other affected movement, so people would ask you if you would be like that permanently. Also, people often broke limbs doing exciting things like skateboarding or downhill skiing which made me think maybe I needed to take more risks.

We used to have a swing set in our back yard. Green posts on the sides. Red swings in the middle, one normal swing, the other with a seat facing both ways that you were supposed to be able to fit two people in, facing each-other.  This almost never happened because even at our age there was an issue with knees, you had to put them side-by-side the other person’s, and same with the feet. I don’t know what they were thinking when they built those things. The green paint on the swing was almost the same color as the grass. But it was the kind of swing set that if you swung too hard on it, you could feel the main posts lifting out of the ground a bit. Just the weight of it shifting.

Not like the swings up in the schoolyard where you could have someone push you, their fingers against your back and you can hear their feet running as they push you, and after they let you go on the swing, you could almost be up in the air, even with the top bar, your feet above the cars on North Bluff, and you would be fine. It was always the mean kids who would take the swing and throw it up so it wrapped around the top of the swing so nobody could use it. But there was always someone nice who knew how to climb up and scale the bar to unwind the swing from where it was caught.

I spent many minutes on the swingset during it’s lifetime in our yard.  Swinging upwards I let the momentum take me upward, trying to see if I could get my legs even higher than the roof of the house, watching how my knees looked against the sky, or trying to catch glimpses of the ocean when I was up in the air. Where I could even see the lines of the tide on the water. Or facing the other way, to the apple trees and hedges by the driveway, my feet at the top of the trees, my hair hangs towards the ground, the sun, dimmed by cloud, seems to head the other way, flipping the higher in the sky my feet go, even if I shut my eyes, as if the whole sky rotated as I swung. The grass and the hedges looking dirty where the sun had dried them.

There was a girl next-door that had a history of being accident prone. One day she was over swinging on the set. Suddenly she fell off the swing and landed on the ground, and then her mouth opened, I could see all her teeth and an emphatic bawl of pain started as she grabbed her arm in agony. I just stood there on the lawn and looked down at my socks and lace-ups. I tightened my hair elastic around my pony-tail. She got up holding her arm and ran back, a direct beeline next door, through the path which involved going around the fence, ducking under a tree, in the space by the hedge. Then I was left in the yard alone, the crying fading into the distance, and easing behind a shut door. It went quiet after that. I heard their car start a little while later, and heard she had been taken to the hospital, my mom told me at the dinner table. As she had broken her arm. “Yeah, she fell off the swing right in front of me,” I said, trying to push some peas onto my fork.

The next day I was back on the swing. There were no interruptions, no falling. Just the sound of warmth – faint seagulls, sunlit leaves, everything still, not even the faint buzz of lawn mowers in the distance.

It was the kind of weather that you washed cars in and they dried in a few minutes. When I was a little older sometimes I had to wash the car. As I cleaned the wide chrome I imagined I was cleaning a car that I would actually want to call my own, and not something gray and serious where nothing was ever perfect when I finished.

I had my palms read once. I was 21, and there was a whole bunch of us at a table, and it was by a boy at 3am at the next table who started reading all our palms, over our finished dinner plates in the Denny’s on Broadway. He read the lines on my hand then looked me in the eye and told me I should never drive a car.  Not that I ever really took it seriously.

I remember the swing set in our yard, walking home. I see the car lights, red pairs along East Hastings, crowding together in the dark lanes as the #3 turns off of Main and heads to a bus-stop. Trust and brokenness. I wonder if there is a car I’m supposed to have mixed up in all those red lights. But Little Bit O’ Soul, Les Sexareenos bursting into my ears. I like the cold air, to stretch my legs, and the room to walk all the way from downtown.

 

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