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I arose unusually early that morning, rather disheveled. My typically straight and stagnant hair had deteriorated into a lopsidedness that seemed to defy the laws of physics. My pajamas, generously dotted with dinosaurs of the multicolored persuasion, had been tangled by a night of twisting and turning. Nevertheless, I radiated optimism typical of a naive six-year old boy. My planned excursion to the local playground monopolized my thoughts; it rendered obsolete the childish dilemmas that constantly plagued me. On Mondays and Fridays, and every day in between, I longed to champion the seesaw and navigate the labyrinthine alleyways of the obstacle course (although I claimed to loathe the swings, it was in fact my fear of heights that limited my ability to conquer them). My eyes widened; energy and elation flowed freely through my limbs; my heart thumped volumes. I hastily outfitted myself in functional yet fashionable attire–royal purple sweatpants, a light sweater with neatly arranged blue columns, and velcro sneakers with blinding red lights on the heels. Clenching my babysitter’s clammy palms, I embarked on my weekly journey to prowl through the playground.
As we trotted down the grand yet narrow boulevards of midtown Manhattan, my tranquil guise deteriorated into a fit of unregulated aspiration. I broke loose from my babysitter’s clutches and gained speed with rapidity unseen since the preceding Saturday. The wind mangled my hair and ruffled my clothing. With a smirk of determination, I raced past passersby and stopped just short of the playground’s entrance. I took a deep breath, and waved my hands around my face, attempting to alleviate my crimson complexion and deep sweat. I collected myself and entered the playground; the potential–both for triumph and calamity–was eternal. I employed my usual routine, and swiftly strolled passed the slides of rusted steel and the monkey bars of crawling toddlers. The sandbox, just meters away, was an alluring jungle of diversity and despotism; although little kids were as numerous as the grains of sand, this jungle was ruled by a minority of big kids–a minority of malevolent, bloodthirsty big kids.
Now just inches away from the delicate dunes of sand, I planted my two feet squarely on the asphalt surface. I amphibiously leaped from the assuring blocks of cement to the daunting swathes of sand, pebbles, and lost sandals. I was not deterred by a rough landing. I indulged in the endless mounds of sand–I sifted sand with my jittery fingers and toes, I made sand angels (snow angels adjusted for the mild weather of mid-September), I shoveled through the sand to find eternally elusive booty (although pogs and the now-defunct subway token were always in abundance). Like a sunbather basking in summer glory, I relaxed amidst the sextillion grainy particles. My stresses were relieved, my aches and pains were no more–the sandbox was the proper cure.
Such a state of ecstasy was short-lived. Narrow-eyed, narrow-lipped, towering big kids with shoelaces (as opposed to my amateurish sneakers of velcro and mesh), patrolled the sand from which I extracted such glory. Their keen eyes were relentless, the swiftness with which they acted was merciless. Before long, I caught the eye of one of the patrolmen. This particular big kid–whose name lingers in anonymity–began to plot the end of my bliss. He corralled a vile clan of delinquents, with big kids as old as nine and even ten. He ordered them to surround me in a seamlessly organized ellipsis. Demonic dialogue ensued:
“Get out of our sand, or we’ll make you get out!” proclaimed one of the biggest of the big kids.
“I’m not bothering anyone…” I said, gazing at the sand.
The gang of big kids retreated into the distance at the first sign of resistance. As I descended once again into my sand-induced coma, I noticed the band of demons in some sort of satanic huddle. Affecting a guise of obliviousness, nervousness subsumed my psyche. I toiled amidst internal strife and unparalleled paranoia. I waited, and I hoped; I waited for my inevitably unfortunate fate to come to fruition, yet I hoped that the ordeal would instantly halt.
The big kids held their huddle for several minutes (minutes which to me seemed like hours). I kept to myself, and attempted to maintain both pride and invisibility (I hid amidst the dunes of sand and under my oversized baseball cap of embroidered blue and maroon). Such efforts proved futile. Shoveling frantically, as if preparing for trench warfare, I noticed a few big kids approaching me. I did not look them in the eyes. In fact, I did not look at them at all. I froze my head at a downward incline, staring at their shadows, waiting for them to act. The biggest of the big kids lunged towards me, and raised his chubby yet menacing arm. Still several meters away, he delicately pulled his arm behind his head. He paused. Like a catapult firing granite boulders, he opened his palm and lobbed an oddly shaped specimen. Although I did not look to the heavens to identify this object (a move that I know regret), I noticed its shadow tediously pinnacling near the clouds and beginning its descent. Amidst a pillage of adolescent chuckles and sneers, the object made its way towards my thickly haired and snugly hatted skull. Bracing for impact, I shut my eyes and cocooned myself in the sand. Within seconds, I felt a soft, slightly feathery thump on my head. I remained idle for several seconds, giving ear to the sea of laughs, gasps, and even the occasional yell. Craving a bubble bath and abundant sympathy, I pried my eyes open, only to find a morbid pigeon entrenched in the sand, about one foot to my left. In the domain that had previously afforded me unparalleled pleasure and comfort…I had been struck by dead fowl.
Realizing that the inanimate specimen was a product of the oft ferocious food chain, my resilience came to a halt. I cringed. My face began to swell and become numb. My tear ducts were mobilized. I descended into a state of internal strife–my howling resonated across the playground, my tears flowed down my cheeks and moistened my clothing. I idled in a teary and cross-legged position, waiting for human compassion. However, my babysitter sat by the swings, reading her Danielle Steel novel, disgustingly bored and complacent.
I needed sympathy. I needed to be absorbed by the hug of an adult. I still craved a bubble bath. I opted to slowly loft myself from the sandy doldrums. I looked over at where the big kids had been laughing. They were gone. I was safe, yet I was scarred. With my head down, with my clothing soaked and sanded, my shoes dirty and disgusting, I walked out of the sandbox. Next Saturday, I would remain on the seesaws.
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