The swings were wet. Water was beaded on the faded pink seats and had soaked into the seat of my pants after I made the mistake of sitting down without looking.
It was overcast, the sky a steady gray. Fairly cold. I had my hands stuffed in my pockets, wishing I had checked the swing before sitting on it.
I kicked at the sand. The rain had weighed it down, made it into sludge that I drew lines in with the toe of my sneaker.
When had I been there last—grade five? Back then I could swing on the monkey bars, skipping two at a time.
I didn’t dare try the monkey bars now that they were wet. That’s what I told myself. Some part of me knew that it would hurt too much to hang there, my shoulders straining in their sockets, realizing I couldn’t force one hand in front of the other. That I was stuck, which was even worse than slipping.
I could never bring myself to jump from the swings. It was something about having the ground rushing away, the sky lurching towards me. I chickened out every time. I’d watched other kids doing it, soaring through the air, stumbling as they landed as though unaccustomed to flight. I would lean forward in my seat and wait for the swing to make a full arc, but I couldn’t let go, and the world would pull me back.
I thought about trying the swings again but looked at my phone and decided against it. Not enough time left.
I slowly erased the lines I’d made with my foot. In the fading daylight, they were getting harder to see.
I checked my phone again and glanced around.
I sat back down on the swings, figuring my pants were already soaked. I swung slowly back and forth, dragging my feet in the sand. I checked my phone. Five past.
I sped up, using my legs to propel me through the air. I rose and fell quickly, probably because I had considerably more weight to push me than I’d had when I was a kid. Everything moved faster. I tried not to look up. That had always made me feel sick.
I ended up looking up anyway and tightened my grip, as though there were the possibility that my fingers would slip, and I would find myself falling into an unforgiving sky.
I felt none of the giddiness I remembered. I felt nauseous.
The swing slowed, and I put my hands back in my pockets.
I heard someone coming.
I felt my stomach drop and wondered if I should hide. If I’d been set up, or someone had been caught. I both reassured and worried myself with the thought that nobody came to the park this late.
It was something about being alone in the playground under a darkening sky. In silence. It felt off.
The slides had become a hulking beast to my left, and the monkey bars were starting to seem more skeletal by the minute.
What was I going to do, crawl into the jungle gym? I almost laughed at the idea and wondered where along the line cops and robbers had stopped being pretend. When the sandman started wearing a uniform.
As a kid, adults had seemed fearless, untouchable. It was only once you became one that you realized it was the other way around.
I chided myself for my paranoia.
The whole process was a lot more abrupt and impersonal than I expected.
A guy in a hoodie walked up to me. I didn’t get a good look at him; it was better not to.
I handed him the bills. He counted the money, handed me a Ziploc, and was gone. We said nothing.
I went home with nothing but the bag and the sand in my shoes
Qurat Dar is an engineering student at the University of Guelph, an avid environmentalist, and an emerging author. She has poetry forthcoming in The Evansville Review, Tenth Street Miscellany, and The Temz Review. She has also received a number of awards for her environmental work, including the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Youth Achievement, and she was named one of Canada's Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 by The Starfish in 2016. She hopes to use her works to represent the South Asian community, and to share her experiences as a Pakistani-Canadian. She can be found on Twitter (@DQur4t).