One playground. Two swings. All ours.
We can’t push off. Our feet dangle above the dirt and cedar chips. We each squeeze the sleeved chains of our swings, strain forward, lean back, snap our ankles upward.
The heavy summer air doesn’t move, and neither do we.
JoJo and I have the park all to ourselves. We’re exactly where we want to be. We’re not indoors. We’re outside, side-by-side. But we’re stuck. We can’t get the momentum to swing. Again and again, we try. Lean back, legs out. Lean forward, snap heels back and up toward our butts.
Still nothing. Until I get a groove and start to move. To swing.
“Hey!” calls JoJo.
“Bump your butt against the back of the seat. Bump it like this…look!”
She slides in her seat, forward and back, bites her lip, and squeezes the sleeved chains harder, but her swing barely jerks.
“Aaargh!” she cries.
“Give me your hand!”
My right hand catches her left. My swing halts and turns toward her, but I kick out my legs and follow with a big butt bump like there’s someone I really don’t like behind me. JoJo watches to move in time with me, and it happens.
We glide through the air. It cools us. We climb as high as the horizontal top bar. We throw our heads back and laugh. We hold hands the whole time.
We settle into a rhythm. JoJo tells me about the tire swing her dad set up on the big tree in her yard. She can’t remember all the details. She was seven years old at the time, and that was more than 30 years ago. I ask her about fishing with her dad. She remembers the fish they caught, perch the size of our feet. I look at her women’s size 8 sandals and my size 7.5 clogs.
JoJo goes silent. She rests her left ear on her shoulder. We look at each other, hold hands, and swing in silence. We stay aloft and the shadows grow longer. The rush hour traffic increases along the boulevard before us.
“I bet we look ridiculous on these swings,” JoJo says.
“Shhh. They can’t see us. No one knows we’re here.”
And it’s true. We’re momentarily off the grid, and I want to preserve this moment for her as long as I can. JoJo is my friend, and this is the only thing I can do for her. Her father is dying in the hospital one mile away, and this is the only thing I can do for her: hold her hand and keep her aloft for as long as I can before we both have to touch back down.
In memory of Roy W. Larson