It was cold the day we went to the playground. A bright gray sky shone down on us, the sun coming from no direction in particular. We shielded our eyes against the brightness and crossed the sidewalk and into the sand. My feet sunk in with each step but I walked with abandon, letting the grains fling up around me and wash in waves against my legs and down into my boots. Aside from the two of us, the playground was empty; the colorless light cast an eerie stillness over everything and the sounds of our quiet words were swallowed up by the silence as soon as we spoke them.
Maybe it was the fact that there was still sand in this playground. It hadn’t been replaced with the wood chips or artificial turf that had taken over my beloved playgrounds a decade and a half ago, before I was even halfway through elementary school. Or maybe it was the stillness and silence that gave this place the feeling of being untouched, somehow removed from the rest of the world. The long metal bars and shafts and spirals were covered in bright yellow paint that seemed stuck on the verge of chipping, and they breathed with the unhurried rhythm of something that will never die.
I climbed to the top of the spiral ladder, my skirt and tights and boots doing their best to adapt to the impetuous movement. I perched on the highest point and looked out at the large grassy expanse separating the playground from the faraway street. The trees were black silhouettes against the bright sky, and I knew that’s how I must have looked to my friend standing below me, ready to act as a completely useless, though well intended, safety net. But this was my element. I found comfort up there, sitting at the top of this quiet little world, my legs wrapped around cold metal; the kind of comfort you don’t know you’re craving until you taste it.
A couple breaths later I came down and we made our way over to the swing set. We held on tightly to the rusted chain links and began to pump our legs, awkwardly at first, angling our feet so they wouldn’t hit the ground. Our muscles began to remember the movement and we picked up speed, flying through the air, the wind we created whipping through our hair and against our cheeks. My scarf was warm around my neck and I nuzzled my chin into it, tears streaming from my eyes back toward my ears. My stomach dropped dizzyingly every time I swung down and I closed my eyes and squealed in fear and delight. I started to laugh, and it was contagious. We twisted and spun in diagonal lines, giggling like the children we were pretending to be. The cold air was full of a sense of absolute completeness, of exhilaration and carefree joy, and nothing else existed except that playground and us, laughing like lunatics, swinging back and forth, kicking up endless sprays of sand.