Hide and Seek

February 7, 2008
By Julia Helmei, Shoreline, WA

Hide and seek is possibly the most infuriating, exasperating, maddening game ever. One person is left in a dark corner to count to an ungodly number, while everyone else runs off and hides from them. Then that one leftover person has to go and look for them, all the while feeling as if someone is secretly watching them, laughing at them. Laughing at the way they look, or the lame way they go about finding people. If the seeker is lucky enough to look in the right direction at the right time, they may find a hider. Maybe the hider will give the seeker grief about how long it took them, then they’ll follow the seeker around singing an annoying chant about how they know where the other hiders are. As if they know the secrets of the universe, and they will never tell.

Bonnie hated playing Hide and Seek. When she was younger, it was because she hated being left alone. She was physically alone, yet it felt as if everyone was peeping out at her, observing her. She was never good at finding people quickly, and the other kids always made fun of her for it. Sometimes, Bonnie would take so long finding the hiders that they would give up on her and go play another game. Bonnie would wander through the backyards of every family on her cul-de-sac, only to glance through a window and see all the neighborhood kids piled on the couch, watching Tom and Jerry. Sorrow would crash down around her. Those kids didn’t give a crap about her. All that time she’d been worried about them silently observing her, but they weren’t even looking in her direction.

As she got older, summer evening rounds of hide and go seek with the neighborhood kids started happening less and less often. Most of them just grew out of it, or saw others stop and decided to go along with it. Bonnie didn’t mind because she’d always disliked the game.

One evening, a knock came at her door. Staring up at her from beneath his dirty baseball cap was Jamie, the neighbor boy. Jamie’s family was a new addition to the cul-de-sac, and already he was popular among the elementary age kids. Bonnie had heard his late night and early morning tantrums all the way in her house, so she was not eager to find out what this puny, whiny kid wanted from her at seven o’clock on a Saturday night. She was prepared for almost anything but what came out of his mouth. He asked if she would play hide and seek with them. For a moment, Bonnie peered down at the little runt with her mouth in a loose O-shape. After gaping for more seconds than she had anticipated, she said yes.

Out on the street, children of all ages had gathered like they were coming to a free doughnut feed. Bonnie wondered why she had signed on to play a game she hated. She’d always thought of herself as a disappointment. Maybe winning a children’s game would help bring back some of her self esteem. Maybe she wanted to feel like a child again. Maybe she just wanted another chance. Before she could decide, Jamie started yelling directions. For a tiny kid, he sure had a powerful voice. Whoever was oldest, he decided, would be the first seeker. Having last played this game so long ago, Bonnie was surprised when she found out that she was the oldest player there. Sheepishly she scanned the crowd and realized that not only was she the oldest, but she was the oldest by a long-shot. It was too late to back out now. Bonnie obliged to her role as Seeker.

Her eyes were shut, but Bonnie could hear the scampering and scrambling of children running away from her, hiding from her.

At first, she was fine. Hide and Seek. It’s only a game, she kept telling herself. By the time she had counted to 47, however, she was ready to give up. Why was it so hard to play a stupid kids game? Was it so difficult to go and look for people? But she couldn’t bring herself to open her eyes. She reached 100, and started getting tired of just standing there. Bonnie gazed out at her street. No child was in sight. A tingling sensation started low in her abdomen, crawling gently but persistently up her spine. What if they were watching her, all those kids, laughing at her. During her adolescent years, Bonnie had wondered why it was so difficult for her to play hide and go seek. It hadn’t always been hard, mind you. Standing on the street corner now, Bonnie estimated that her dislike for Hide and Seek had started around the time of her parents divorce. Such a gritty battle it had been. Month upon month of trials, pile upon pile of paperwork, and night upon night of screaming and crying and frozen dinners. Though she was young, Bonnie knew that her family was the only family on her cul-de-sac to go through a divorce. Some days she would come home after school and not see one of her parents until nine o’clock that night, sometimes later. No one would explain to young Bonnie exactly what was happening. Why her parents fought, who the strange women that her mother kept angrily mentioning was, what would become of Bonnie, and when it would all be over.

Bonnie’s parents were hiding. And she had to seek. They were hiding from her, peering out to see how much she knew and how much she didn’t. Maybe they were laughing, although it didn’t seem funny. Friends weren’t supposed to run from you. Parents were not supposed to run from you! And yet they did run from Bonnie, ran and hid. Just as the neighbor kids hadn’t bothered to tell Bonnie they were changing activities, her parents didn’t bother to tell Bonnie that her world was about to be changed forever. No one bothered to tell, because no one bothered to look.

All these memories and more came rushing back to Bonnie while she was standing on her street corner that evening. Memory lane was more than she could handle. She collapsed onto the sidewalk under the pressure, scraping her palms in the process. Silent tears rolled down her sun burnt cheeks, making them sting.

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