The Playground in Winter

July 6, 2011
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The cold December wind slapped my face as I cut through the air. I felt gravity pull me back into Toaster’s hands as he grabbed the chains keeping up the swing, holding it still to prevent me from moving.

“You were doing it again,” he warned, his voice stern with frustration.

“Sorry,” I muttered past my scarf, rolling my eyes only because I knew he couldn’t see. I stared off into the neighborhood. The mundane suburb had been transformed by the night into a wonderland of dancing lights and festive music. Cold air bit my face as I was thrust forward again.

“You know, I’d like to have kids someday, and that might be a little hard if I don’t have any balls.”

“Yeah, I know,” I sighed. “I heard you the first twelve times you whined about it.” My mind wandered back to the lights and sounds floating through West Houston. “Hey, are you going to Skye and Andy’s parents’ party tonight?”

“Of course,” Toaster said. “You know I wouldn’t miss a chance to hear how proud Ted is of his ‘special little girls.’”

We laughed. Not a big ‘Haha, that’s hilarious,’ laugh, but a quiet, ‘I’m comforted by your presence,’ chuckle. The night chilled us through layers of winter clothes, but we were content sitting on the playground and enjoying each other’s company.

“You know you’re my best friend, right?” Toaster asked, still staring straight ahead.

“I’m your only friend,” I joked as he sat in the swing next to me.

“I mean it. You really are.”

“Even though I’m an immature munchkin,” I said with a smile. “That’s nice to know Spanky.”

“You’re chill,” he said, chewing his lip in thought. “And you listen when I need someone to. I dig it.”

“Glad to be of service,” I said, warming my hands with my breath. Toaster grabbed my face so that I was staring right into his bright green eyes. He held me there for a minute. I studied his dreads while he stared at me with all the intensity of a lion stalking its prey.

I was caught off guard when he kissed me.

It was nowhere near as awkward as I expected my first kiss to be. He was way more experienced than me, but I didn’t have to worry about where to put my hands or what to do with my tongue. We just sat there, a couple of stupid kids on a swing, enjoying each other on a frigid December night.

He stared at me again when I finally pulled away, a sloppy, sideways grin plastered across his face. I didn’t know what to say. Two seconds felt like three decades as we sat there, me wondering what the hell was going on.

“Um, my lips are really kinda chapped,” I said, licking them and looking away. Toaster laughed and stood up, pulling me into a hug.

“We better go get ready for the party,” he said.

“Yeah,” I started to shuffle towards my house across the street. “Hey!” I yelled, turning to walk backwards. “Don’t forget my STP tape either!” Toaster saluted me, hopped on his board, and skated off towards home. I shuffled into my house with frozen fingers, a huge smile, and a stomach full of butterflies.

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