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the attic

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The Lounge | The Techie Bible | Other Stories | Six


Childhood: It’s That Simple

It was the first time he saw her. Her denim jumper whipped wildly about her legs as she darted away from him. He had been tagged. It took him a moment to come out of his daze, but when he had regained his thought processes, he chased after her. He didn’t know her, it had been her first day at Tod-L-Lyn Daycare, but he needed to catch another glimpse. It was his second year running around this same playground, and yet, he knew the other kids only as much as she did. He kept to himself mostly, too shy to speak. He had surprised even himself by joining in the game.

Swerving around the teeter-totters and missing the slide by inches, wood chips flew in his wake. There were others in the game but he didn’t notice them; he couldn’t even hear them. The world was silent but for his own heart beat and her laughter. It was high and musical. He reached out to grasp her arm as it flailed inches in front of him, but all he could capture was daffodil air and sunlight. The most distinct memory of his childhood: the chase.

            She rounded the playground again, starting to wheeze slightly but ignoring, leading him in circles so that he could only see parts of her at a time through the equipment, smiling when he could see her, gasping when he could not. Her dark brown hair tousled and cut short like a boy’s, her Beachwood skin that simply radiated in the four o’clock sun, and that incessant blue jumper that whipped wildly about her legs.

            As he passed the leap-froggers for a third time, an older girl, frustrated with this solitary game of cat and mouse, pushed him to the ground and declared herself ‘It’. He had braced himself and squeezed his eyes tightly shut before he’d hit the ground, and now as he opened them again, he was met with a hazy world. Coming soon to that awful realization, he reached toward his eyes, touching them. His stomach turned as he squinted around him to no avail, sifting his hands through the new turf…he had lost his glasses in the sandbox. No, he couldn’t say ‘lost’ yet. He had ‘misplaced’ them in the sandbox. His mom would absolutely kill him if he lost them…again. He brushed his hands over the sand which scratched at the undersides of his knuckles. He could feel the catch in his throat, the water was starting to flood his eyes.

            Suddenly, there she was. She was blurry, but he knew that it was her. “Don’t worry,” she cooed in a small, tired, dove voice; the voice of a four year old wonder. She took his hand in hers and dropped something lightly into it. He hurriedly shuffled them up the bridge of his nose and gazed down at her, not trying to hide his face. Her lips were small and very pink, curved in one eternal smile. Her dark blue eyes played with him. He sat stuttering and she was beautiful.

            “Do you want to be my friend?” she asked quietly, those deep eyes innocent, hopeful and sincere. He nodded and she helped him to his feet. It was that simple.

*                      *                      *

            “Why do you look like that?” she asked to break the relaxed silence that set in about the time they sat down on her porch to enjoy their Disney ice pops. Red juice dribbled down her chin but five year olds don’t wipe such things away – sticky badges of honor complete with bragging rights.

            “Like what?” he bit off Mickey’s orange ear with little malice. He noticed her roll her eyes as he did so. She was fond of lecturing him on licking, or savoring, an ice pop versus biting, or wasting, one. ‘It’s like you’re trying to rush through the best part when the whole thing is the best part!’ she would say, tinier and with a mousier voice. He’d listen.

            “Your skins darker than mine and your eyes are funny looking.” By ‘funny’ she meant ‘slanted at a slightly different angle’ but her vocabulary hadn’t reached high school proficiency this year.

            “I’m Chinese.” ‘Slurp’


            “I’m from China.”

            “I thought you were from Atlantic Highlands.” Her eyebrows crinkled and her lips hung open as she gazed off into nothingness.

            “I am.”

            She opened her mouth as if to argue in defense of Logic’s reputation, but she hesitated, spurting off a “never mind” before she confused herself into oblivion. “I guess you’re just different because you are.”

            “I guess so.” It was that simple.

*                      *                      *

            “How do I do this?” she whined slightly; she was embarrassed of her clumsiness and he found it entirely too entertaining. She put the blade to the cement again in determination. She always surpassed him and for once, he was better than her at something…it drove her crazy. She tapped the stick on the ground repeatedly until he passed her the grapefruit sized ball. She handled it awkwardly but efficiently enough. She tried to pass it back to him but the devil puck wannabe veered to the left about two yards. She made a noise of frustration and he laughed, chasing the ball. He handled it back over to her.

“Don’t worry, you’ll get it.” He was strangely patient for a six year old boy. He’d been playing hockey for two years; he was an expert. “It’s getting late, I have to go home. Your mom’s across the field, right?” she nodded, blowing her hair out of her face. It was only slightly longer than it had been when he had first met her but her eyes were the same.

            He left her a stick and ball to practice with and walked off behind the bleachers. Reaching them, he stopped, and watched her. She dribbled slowly for a minute or two before picking a target. He couldn’t see her properly from so far off but he knew that she was biting her lip; she always did that when she was concentrating fiercely. Winding up more like a golfer than a hockey player, the stick hovered in the air as if an extension of a ballerina’s arm. Pulling through without warning, the ball flew across the rink and into the net. He smiled to himself. It was that simple.

*                      *                      *

“What’s your brother’s name, again?” They were sitting on top of the jungle gym in his back yard, swatting mosquitoes. His mother told them to put on bug spray but they were seven and seven year olds know everything. Dusk was falling rapidly but the warmth of summer expelled night time fears. His brother was kicking a soccer ball around the backyard with no real intent but to show off. He was two years older than them.

            “James,” he said, not absently. She noticed how tall James was, and how handsome. She blushed when James spoke to her. Noticing the change in her, her friend became suddenly introverted. He looked wickedly at his brother, shooting daggers as he passed by. The heat rose to his neck and he took her hand to try to start up a conversation, to joke, to brag…anything to win her back. He stumbled over his words and sighed in frustrated embarrassment, looking to his overgrown yard. She was his, it was that simple.

*                      *                      *

            “What do you mean you’re moving?” she asked, choking back sobs. She didn’t understand that they didn’t have enough money to keep the house, that his dad had found a new job in South Jersey, all she knew was that he was going far away and never coming back.

            “It’s only an hour south of here,” he remarked though not whole-heartedly. An hour seemed an eternity to an eight year old. She just cried. To both of them, moving was in itself a death. They would grow apart, forget each other, and get new friends. She hugged him tightly around the neck and he hugged back, finally pushing her away and running up his steps, slamming the front door behind him. He was a man and men don’t cry…at least not in front of girls. He parted the curtains slowly and looked out at her, little, on the sidewalk. Her brown hair was long, now, and the jumper was replaced by jeans. Her skin had darkened with sun kisses but her eyes stayed the same; never-changing blue. “This is the last time I will ever see her,” he thought to himself as he cursed the tears running down his cheeks. He watched her walk slowly away. He loved her, it was that simple.

*                      *                      *

            “Chris Cho?” she asked, slightly unsure of herself. Her long hair was pulled back in a tight bun and her clothes showed signs of working with children. She put her soda can down and walked over to him. He whipped his head around, but didn’t recognize her at first. How could he not have?

            “You remember Katelyn Noland, Chris. You two were best friends when you came to this preschool, remember?” His mother stated more than asked. He did remember.

            “It’s been ten years,” she giggled awkwardly, hands in her back pockets that made her elbows bow out like wings.

            “Yeah,” he smiled back, “how have you been?” God she was ever more beautiful than he had remembered her.

            “Oh, fine, I suppose, as a general description of a decade.” She laughed again; he missed that laugh, now fuller, richer. “Here.” She took his phone abruptly from his hand, punching assorted digits quickly. He didn’t make a sound, he was in a daze. This had to be some dream. “If you’re going to be in the area more often, give me a call, we can catch up,” she finished, handing him back his cell.

            “I - I’d like that,” he stuttered, finally, “But I have to go; I’ll call you.” He walked up the stairs to his car with her goodbyes ringing over his shoulders. He couldn’t take it. He physically couldn’t take it. He counted to ten before taking out the phone and finding her in the contact book. She had been on a break, it was ringing.

            “What took you so long?” She was back in his life, it was that simple.

The Scariest Thing About Memories is Believing You Will Forget Them