Tuesday, February 28, 2006


I loved the swings, when I was in grade school. I was slow, as a rule -- one of those pudgy kids who always trailed at the back of the pack when running laps in gym class. My big athletic ambitions then were a) not to be the very last, and b) not to get "lapped" -- overtaken from behind by the boys in the lead. That was humiliating.

But slow as I was, I always got to the swings in time to claim one. I don't remember, but I suspect I somehow crept out of class a minute or two early in order to do so. (I wasn't fast, but I was good at getting places unseen and unheard.) I loved everything about the swings. The tall steel A-frame of cold steel posts, rock-solid and well-made, standing out as sharp-focused objects in that vague haze of shoddy public property. The flexible black seats, made of some mysterious material I've never been able to identify, half canvas, half tire-rubber, corded with strong fibers. The big-linked chains by which those seats hung from the crosspieces.

I would pump and pump, higher and higher, diving and swooping and diving and swooping. I often did this for the full recess period. I did it for so long that when it was time to go back inside, it was difficult to release my clutch; I had held so tight and so long that my hands had frozen onto the chains. I had to pull them loose, and I would walk back to class gingerly prying my fingers open. It was deliciously painful. The prints of the chain links, a pattern in red and white, were vivid on my finger and palms.

I was reading Noko's diary yesterday, She wrote of finally giving up on "the two things that were the most important, the driving force and cause of so much suffering over the last ten years or so" -- the hopes for an ideal love and the hope for poetic recognition.

-- and I thought of that sensation, the painful but, deeply gratifying sensation of loosening a long-held clutch. You don't know how hard you were holding till you let go.

No comments: