November 7, 2007
Second grade recess; a time of relaxation among the hard working students at Ramona Alessandro. During this particular recess it was extremely nice outside; the Bright Southern California sun, the air as clean as it will ever get, dust and dirt whisking across the playground with children charging like crazed bulls in a Spanish bull run to their favorite spots. This recess time was set for kids in grades 2 to 3, which meant we were all big and tough and could do anything we wanted to and not even worry if we were hurt. The teachers usually let us go on our merry way while standing along the outskirts of the playground so as to keep from harm as well as keep watch. Whenever a kid was picked on or hurt, the teachers would step in and punish or comfort, which ever the situation required.
Red Robin was a popular game to play at Ramona Alessandro but, after the county had banned it from schools due to its “Dangerous Tendencies,” kids were forced to play in secret. They would get in small groups as far from the teacher’s views as possible, trying not to be seen. It was a hopeless effort seeing as every time a game would start, the teachers would instantly know and move in to break it up. After a few failed tries to play a game of Red Robin, we decided the teachers could see everyone and everything and we would never get away with anything.
On this nice and warm winter’s day I was walking out of the back doors of the dark red brick school, kids running and skipping past, but I had decided that today I would just like to play by myself. The warm day was a relief from all the heat and was perfect for just thinking. Under the bright sun I thought of the fantasy worlds I wished I could live in. Lush green forests, and un-scaled mountains, eloquent magic and magnificent swordfights. I thought of the quests to be taken and the demons to be slain. I relished in my mind. As I continued my thoughts, walking past the other kids, not even realizing that they were asking me to play four-square, I saw some monkey bars and instantly was reminded of the un-scaled mountains. I decided it had to be scaled at all costs. Running over to the much under-used monkey bars, mulch crunching under my foot falls, I bumped into a few kids, just assuming they were trees, of which there were truly none in sight. As I reached the monkey bars I jumped tossing my arms out, hoping to get onto them faster.
My hand latched onto the highest rung it could reach. Up the mountain I went with an inhuman speed and in less than a second I was touching the top of it. I looked around and, even though I should have been saying ‘I’m on top of the world’, I felt like I needed to go higher; I couldn’t see all that lay below me. I decided to reach my hands out as far as they would go and grab onto the rung that lay there. With as much strength as my little six year old body had I pulled my legs up to the highest rung and stood straight up. Looking around, I could see so much more than I had ever before, more than most six year olds I knew had.
I could see past the walls of the school, all the smog raking the land. I saw all the thugs (who, at my age, I hadn’t known were up to no good) strutting around in their gangs and feasting their eyes on whatever woman walked by them. “Safe” inside the school I could see the children playing without a care in the world, only thinking of how to make this recess better than the last.
But still, even with this marvelous view, I craved more. I wished to see all that there was and, even against my better judgment, (I had heard the playground stories of kids supposedly falling off the monkey bars to their death) I decided to walk along the top of the monkey bars. I knew that this feat of young dexterity would not be easily accomplished. I had to make sure that all of my concentration was going to be on staying on top of the monkey bars and, more importantly, alive. I reached out to the farthest rung I could touch and grabbed hold, mustering more power than I knew a six year could control, and jumped up throwing my legs onto a rung and quickly repositioning to balance myself.
Finally I was there - crouching atop the world - but, did I have the courage, much less the ability to stand up? I shifted myself a little and let go of the rung clutched tight in my hands. Rocking slightly I began to move my hands back to the rung they once held but after steadying myself, I decided it was time to stand up. Very slowly, I began pushing my feet against the rung they rested upon and rose up to see more of the world than I ever imagined existed in reality. I could see the tops of the mountains, usually clouded by smog - this was the first time I was able to see the top of a mountain in person. I could see the houses a mile away and more as well as over the roof of the school where many long lost treasures lay; big red bouncy balls and basket balls, Frisbees and even someone’s shorts, were now within reach. Turning around, I again saw the world of my fantasies. Wild horses grazing off in the distance, a butterfly fluttering past my face, green covering everything. I had scaled the mountain. I had found the world of my dreams.
I tried to take a step forward but, in my quickly mounting dismay, my left leg fell through. Before I could regain my balance, my right leg slipped and went through the rungs as well. Back in the “real” world, I was slipping quickly and tried to stop myself by grabbing a rung with my chin. I was “almost” successful. My six year old chin not strong enough to hold the rest of me, pounded on the rung as my head was thrown back, crashing the back of my skull against the rung behind and then again my head went forward just to slam my forehead against the first deadly rung. I landed on the ground with a small puff and all worlds were gone.
In what felt like a minute or two, light began to rush through my squinted eyes. Knowing that I had been knocked unconscious I expected to see at least one person wondering if I was okay but I had no such luck. The mulch was stabbing into my back painfully and the air smelled of dirt and rot. I slowly raised myself upon my elbows to look around, kids were playing like they had been before and teachers were watching to make sure no one was hurt or playing “Red Robin.” I was alone and, hearing the bell signaling recess’ end, I stood up to go back inside puzzled and a bit angry as well. No one really cared if I was cracked and destroyed; no one even knew there was a possibility that I was injured.
It confused me as to how the teachers didn’t notice my fall; they would always see everything else. Or did they? How much do our elders really know? How much do they really see? I grew up a wildly conforming child on the outside but always looking for the loophole in life. Without this happening to me you probably could never have picked me out of a crowd but now I’m the guy wearing big pants, guitar sunglasses, and a baroque jacket and jabot. I am overly insane (so I’m told) and can pull off any fashion or attitude (so I’m told as well). I enjoy this life of being outside of what my “superiors” tell me is right and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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