You’re sitting on a bench swinging your legs that hang several inches from the ground, leaning your weight on your left hand as your right hand holds a Strawberry Shortcake Bar. Although your hands have picked up all sorts of dirt from the asphalt, the sandbox and the public bench you now sit on, this doesn’t prevent you from licking the quickly-melting vanilla ice cream that flows from the bar off of your fingers. Your skin is already sticky anyway from hours-old sunscreen and sweat.
The sun is blindingly hot, but your moistened bangs serve as a visor and a sort of cool mop atop your head. A grey squirrel shuffles over to within a foot or so of your feet, gazing up at you with a look that wants something but doesn’t seem to remember what exactly. Being possessive of your ice cream, you kick your foot to motion the animal away.
Just as quickly as you got the urge to ask your dad to spend $1.50 on an ice cream bar, it’s done, and you hop off the bench to run back to the sandbox and the two friends you just made. They have a green castle-shaped bucket to make sandcastles and they need the materials. You dig like a madman under the assumption that this box contains an unlimited supply of sand running straight through to the earth’s core — if only you put in the effort to get it. Sure enough, though, you fairly quickly knock your scratching nails against a solid layer of wood that is the bottom of the box.
As the shadows of trees in early August begin to creep over the sandbox, you enthusiastically propose that you and your friends race to the top of the jungle gym. Without hearing an answer back, you run barefoot over hot black rubber (in your mind molten lava) to claim victory at the top. From here, you cover your eyes as you look out through the trees to the river. It glistens in the distance, allowing for the passing silhouettes of runners, bikers and dog walkers to be seen as they block its shine. From this great height of 10 feet, a wind suddenly whips up, blowing leaves from trees and prompting you and your pals to scream and and run for the ground. You jump down the slide, never admitting that you’re scared of sliding down the fire pole.
A game of tag breaks out in a sudden frenzy. Everyone is “it.” You’re feeling the sugar rush from that ice cream bar — those other kids are in trouble, because you just became Dash from “The Incredibles.” You run tirelessly about the jungle gym, the strong wind at your face an indicator of your speed, until you’ve huffed and puffed and can’t any longer. As you take a seat on the first step up to the slide, Dad comes over to say that you have to go in a minute.
In this sobering moment, you look around and see that the once luminous sun is now a blood orange orb nestled against the horizon. You notice that your exposed calves and forearms are now cool to the touch, a gentle graze provoking goosebumps. You look back at Dad and accept your return to reality as you get up to go. Time flies when you’re having fun.
Sitting on a small plastic seat in front of Dad on his bike, you casually drift down the park’s main strip with his sweater wrapped around you. As he turns on the front and rear lights, fireflies begin to glow. Instead of pondering the reasons for their glow, you instinctively grab for them as they come closer and closer to being within your grasp. You notice one or two dogs doing the same as you pass. After a bit of biking, your eyes begin to itch as if it were early April, as your eyelashes have failed to prevent unfiltered park and city air from carrying debris into their realm. You close your eyes for a bit, still able to make out the impressions of passing lights. You hear the occasional jangle of a dog’s leash or the cry of a far-off siren, but mostly just the low hum of the tires running on asphalt. You notice the park’s constant earthy scent — a scent of old wood, grass and soil — and become aware of whenever this is interrupted by aromas of subway vents, dog feces or sweaty runners. You open your eyes every so often, guessing where you are based on these clues. You’re forming memories in this moment and you don’t even know it.