Loren W

The Playground Has Eyes


Unforgiving.

That was one word for the Arizona sun.

Unforgiving.

Beating down like something had wronged it.

(Something had)

And now the sun was trying to scourge the earth of it

(This wrongness)

trying to burn it away.

But plastic and metal does not melt as easily as the sun would think.

And memories cannot be bleached away.

The sun is unforgiving.


What tragedy ghosts the swings

The slides

The merry-go-round?

No playground is ever truly abandoned

(without a reason)

And even if the children are gone wretched things still come out to play.

Slimy things with murky intentions,

They love the playground.

And what, then, happens when the malicious visitors are gone too?

What happened that drove them all away?

What happened to the children of my grandparent’s generation

(the last ones to have their knees scraped by unforgiving mulch)

That caused them all to run away forever?

What happened in the playground

Squatting in between Interstate 76 and the Post Office

(The one with the misspelled town name)

(Though it doesn't matter)

(Because nobody sends letters to this town anyway)


Different stories

Different tales of the small town where seemingly nothing happens.

Each family has a different Iliad

Lore they picked up walking between corn stalks and sitting in the backs of All-Nite Diners.

(But)

Each family has the same odyssey

Of what happened in the playground.

They

(the grandmatriarchs, the grandpatriarchs)

will mumble in their cigarette smoke-ruined voices the memory of the last snowfall, and a private yarn

Their eyes growing distant as they breathe in the still air of the night

(The night air has been still since before even they were born)

They sit in their overstuffed, reclinable thrones.

They tuck a not-yet-sleepy young one into bed.

(it is not hard for the stars to instill a sense of restlessness in one’s soul)

They only tell the story of the playground if asked to.

That is an unspoken rule.

And they, face grizzled, eyes steeling, will pause

(not wanting to revisit the creak of the seesaw)

but feeling required to, they will speak.

And they will glance in the direction of the playground,

As if praying it can't hear.

As if praying it's not watching.


Proactive

“Be more proactive.”

It’s what my mother tells me every time someone cuts me in line, if there’s a problem with my food at a restaurant, if I need help finding something in a store. Her definition: Stand up for yourself, incite action, be the change.

“Be more proactive.”

It’s what I tell myself when I find myself in a Moment, capital M. A Moment, a time of intimacy, of privacy, when I can speak and be heard, when my cards are lined up perfectly, and my words flow straight from my soul. My definition: Stop procrastinating and just come out to your family already, god damn it.


I’m not very good at being proactive. That’s why the first person I ever came out to was my notebook, the little blue one with the words “Western Pennsylvania Writing Project” stamped across the front. The time I was in camp here exactly a year ago was when I realized I was gay, as an awkward thirteen-year-old who was on the cusp of high school, practically high off the atmosphere of literature and like-minded people. I was fueled by this passion to write, to create, and this newfound part of myself provided for perfect creative fodder.


So I wrote. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. For the first time, I had queer characters, same-sex love interests, and it was glorious. I wrote and I wrote, vivaciously, almost insatiably, for two amazing weeks.

And then the dust cleared, and as I read over my work, the personal essays and the poetry, and I realized I had forgotten something.

I had forgotten to tell anyone I was gay.

“No matter,” I thought, although it was a very big matter. I had already sealed away a very flamboyant piece on queer identity for publication, and in that, I had created a time bomb for myself, a sort of coming-out deadline.

“No matter!” I continued to say to myself, although the words had gotten slightly more nervous. I’d just… I’d just recite the piece at the annual camp showcase! Everyone would cheer and clap at my bravery, and I’d kill two birds with one stone, knock off both coming out and public speaking at once.

I applauded my cunning and went on my way, solid in my convictions that yes, this was a very good plan!

But then the day came, and my anxiety got the better of me, and I backed out. The day went. And another, and another, et cetera, et cetera, the time passing until the time bomb faded from my mind. Two months elapsing, and yet there still was not a day where I wasn’t angry in myself for letting another Moment pass by, one that could have been perfect.


The time bomb exploded the night before Homecoming.

I was trapped, my hair being slow-cooked by a hot curling iron, practicing with the help of my mother my hairdo for the next evening. I felt invincible, the stress of high school hadn’t settled on me yet, and I was carefree, in a sort of irresponsible trance, nothing could bother me now.


She passingly commented on the piece I had published in the anthology. The very coming-out-of-the-closet piece. The very gay piece.

My mother, in her very typical way, was being proactive.


And now, literally a year later, I stand in front of you today, very openly proud of who I am. I’ve come a long way from the person I was; The awkward thirteen year old who was outed by her own writing, muffling who she was, trying to find the perfect moment that never came.

And oddly enough, I’m still the least proactive person you’ll ever meet.