A summer day, I was four-years-old and had nothing to do, a child’s life. I was playing with a neighborhood friend, a girl, around my age. It was later in the day, my friend Catherine and I were playing in front of her home. Both very quiet this day, her father and mother, too busy for us to bicker. We laughed at and with each other, knowing we had very little time to play but we were lucky, as rules had been broken for us to spend time as one. We dared to fight, rile up her mom or dad, but the warning of “get along or else”, lingered over us. Just like the shadows of her home divided her lawn and the shade lead into her home, where dinner being prepared would end our time together. The darkness, felt like the end of time and the sunlight, its continuation.
Her dad was mowing the lawn and her mother was inside cooking. The smell of freshly cut grass was in the air. I never went inside her home that day but the smell of chicken, baking in an oven, made its way outside. Maybe it was the cut grass but I imagined many green vegetables cooking on the stovetop, just like my mom did. I could just taste the food, my belly rumbled.
As I looked around, I saw the blue skies, with clouds taking the shape of what a child would see. I dreamt of cartoons and my children’s books. The sun was bright and hurt our eyes. We had to be selective with where we stood. We both did this, and stayed in the shadow of her home, protecting our eyes, protecting us from seeing the light, that our time together would be short lived. But the shadows were dark and felt like death, the end of our playdate. With wind, it became too chilly on our skin to linger in the shade. So, this created a new kids game, where we jumped back into the sun, for warmth and life and a continuing existence. Then after becoming too hot and blind, we jumped into the shade, knowing we were safe until it became too cold and depressing, like the inevitable end of our time together.
Her father’s mowing had left some clumps of grass behind. I picked up one clump, feeling the cool wetness in my hands. The smell overwhelmed the food in the air and removed it from my mind. The smell made me forget that I would soon be leaving back home. I threw the clump at my friend, laughing as I did, she flinched but I had missed. Missed, probably on purpose or our time together would have been over, her parents were not in a mood to mitigate.
As we dived into the shadows to hide from the heat and out into the sunlight for freedom, it felt endless. Like a routine that would never end and should never be disturbed. We were just two kids, all alone in front of a house, by the street, just two kids all alone, such champions of their our own fate.
But there was a disturbance for us, some change. Without warning, a stranger appeared. One like us, a little kid in a world of giants. The peace was broken, we returned to our human form and prepared for speech. It was like going through an evolutionary process from bacteria to fish to ape to human.
“Hi.” These were the first words from our visitor.
“My name is Derek” were the next. The sound of the wind picked up into my ears. I hadn’t wanted this encounter and felt like the wind was buying me freedom from communicating.
I was quiet, still waking up from being one with nature. I pointed at my friend, as she looked from this stranger to me. Then while staring at her I said “This is your house.”
Catherine seemed a little stifled but she came quickly with conversation right back.
She said “My name is Catherine, this is my home.” She laughed and giggled but I was silent in the presence of someone new. She then extended her arm in a way that suggested it was my turn to speak. My hopping from sunlight to the shade and back, had turned into a swaying.
I stared at this new being. He had black hair and was around my own height. Somewhat different from my own appearance of blondish brown hair and blue eyes, a similar look Catherine and I shared. But her with her much more yellow blonde hair. Still, the neighborhood lacked children to play, a new friend meant much more fun. Children need play and to play, you need children.
I took some time but finally revealed my name. “I’m James.” I pointed toward my home, just across the road and behind one house. I was unsure if a handshake was needed, as I was still having trouble remembering how humans act, it felt all so new. But all three of us seemed more content with keeping our distance, as was the trend that had been set that day, to be on good behavior or no playing.
There was an awkward pause but this new person was more eager. He said “I just moved here.” “Do you want to come over and see my home?”
Catherine didn’t respond, she was under the impression that someone would understand her situation. I spoke for her “She has dinner soon.” “I can play but I don’t know you.”
Another pause ensued. Derek broke the silence once more. “Do you like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?” he asked. I was now all alone. Catherine had gone back to playing in the sun and shade, while listening to her father mow. She fell out of the conversation.
Then I answered “Yes, I watch that show.”
“We both have to go soon, she has dinner and my family wanted me back home after this.”
Derek thought for a moment, then he said. “I live down the street, bye.”
I answered as he left “I can play some other day.” I’ll come to see you sometime.”
He looked at me and then Catherine. He then waved and started away. He vanished as fast as he had appeared.
Catherine and I then stared at each other. We readjusted our footing to be perfectly in the shade but bordering the sunlight yet again. Then we were rate back to playing a game of life or death, of being in the sun or being in the shade. We could tell we only had several minutes left to play. But still we returned, back to summer daydreams and pretend. Back to trying to guess what shape the clouds had now taken. It felt like an eternity, that nothing could break, as nostalgia set in once more of only what a child dreams.
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