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Circles This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Darren skated figure eights in the middle of the school playground. Slowly and steadily, he made big loops, circling around monkey bars and basketball hoops. His head told him to go faster, to get some sort of a rush, but the persistent heat said no. He kept going for fifteen minutes, twenty, half an hour, forty-five, keeping the same pace. He began to tire, but he ignored himself and the sweat coming off his face. None of that was important, it didn't matter. He looked down at his roller blades, "Shoot!" he muttered, watching the four wheels on his left skate wobble side to side. He found a bench and sat to fix it. He was surprised to find the bench was less than a foot and a half off the ground. Looking around, he spotted the faded pictures in the school windows left there by a teacher in June. "I Love to Count!" one read: "ABC's Are Fun!" said another. Kindergarten wing. He wondered just what the purpose of those signs were; it wasn't like kindergartners could read anyway.

Carefully he removed the left skate, being sure not to break the duct tape which was holding one of the buckles in place. Holding it in his lap, he stared at his foot for a moment. The sock was soaked and he felt as if it were stifling him. Peeling the wet rag off, he laid it on the ground, now he could breath. Picking up the skate, he examined it for a screw or bolt, something he could tighten to fix the wheels. Soon he became distracted as a young mother and her daughter appeared from around the building. He watched them play, aware that the mother was sending nervous glances in his direction. What was it, the clothes? Darren looked down at his shorts, they came to just above the knee, and had several tears; perhaps it was the damp tank top which was about two sizes too large. Maybe the unruly black hair, or the baseball cap. After a while, he realized how intensely he was watching them, the mother's glances became more and more frequent. He tried to give her a smile, but he realized it came out as more of a menace or threat than a friendly gesture. "Come on," the woman said, "time to go home."

"But I want to play on the swings!" the child protested.

"It's time to go home." The two headed off around the other side of the building.

Darren observed the empty playground. It was still, too still, still enough to cause you to think. He didn't want to think. Slowly, he pulled his sock back on, followed by the roller blade. He had forgotten all about the wheel. For a minute he stared at the skate, three years he'd had it. "Shut up! Don't think, don't think, don't think!" he told himself. He got up and started skating in circles, faster and faster while the circles got smaller and smaller. Don't think! Don't think! He got frustrated because he couldn't make the circles any smaller, so to compensate he made them faster. He gave you those skates; he didn't!" Darren was wet and frustrated but he made the circles wider and kept going. Don't think! Five years, had it been that long? He pushed the thoughts from his mind, but they wouldn't leave, It was January; it was so cold that month. The thoughts came racing back, Five years. Four Christmases, five Easters, four New Years, four Halloweens, almost five Fourth of Julys! The days and numbers confused him. How could it have been so long? He couldn't have picked them out for you, you know. Sick people don't go to the mall, or sporting good stores, to pick out birthday presents for their kids. She did. She had to go and pick them out for him.

Tight, fast circles. They were too much. Darren tripped over a crack filled with weeds and landed on his wrist. He watched it as if it were someone else. He saw his skate hit the weed; he saw himself fall and crush his wrist. He rolled over and pulled the throbbing joint out from under him. With his good left arm, he pushed himself up into a sitting position. I was eleven, five years. He stared at his wrist and promptly turned his head to vomit. Hospitals, doctors, nurses, medication, roommates. They all came and went for five years. He saw the roller blades, he grabbed the left one by the rear wheel, tore it off his foot breaking the duct tape, and threw it as far as he could. The motion tormented his wrist. It landed only a few feet away.

"I hate you!" he told it.

Hospitals, death.

"I hate you!" he yelled after the skate.

July third, 1994.

A wave of pain passed over him, he almost threw up.

"It hurts," he cried to the skate. "God, it hurts!" he screamed at the sun.

Darren laid his back down on the hot pavement. The pain just kept coming in waves and he couldn't stop it. After a while, he sat up again and took off his other roller blade. Collecting them both, he started on his way to the emergency room, in his socks. The pain made him take a very slow pace. But he knew the way. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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