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My Metal-penny Orange-flavored Victory blood
The light streams down through the trees, lighting the orange leaves on fir, colors blending together like stained glass in a chapel window. The gaudy reds and blues of the jungle gym have become the cool, muddy browns of a cliff and as we climb, our small hands become claws, our arms wings. Ruthie is with me, we are light as feathers, the sunlight is our air and we breathe in its warmth. Today, we can do anything.
As we near the top, I slip a bit and she climbs ahead.
“Ha!” she exclaims in her high, childish voice, “I beat you! I beat you again!” Her long, long dark hair, so much prettier than my own snarled blond mane, whips in the wind. She is so light, delicate and graceful, that for a moment I fear she it might blow her away. To my young child’s mind, she is a princess, one step ahead, always better, always faster, always a little bit higher than I am.
I’ll show her.
Today, I am invincible. Today, I can fly. I scramble to the top and spread my arms. I can practically feel the feathers of my long, tawny wings ruffling in the breeze that whispers, “Stop, stop.” But I cannot listen to the wind, for her daring, taunting giggles fill my ears, until they are all I can hear. Breathing in the sun-air, I am more than just a small girl atop a jungle gym. “I’m gonna fly now, Ruthie.” I proclaim. She stops giggling and gasps. Before second thoughts can strike me and knock me off-balance, I jump.
The wind, light and luscious, for a moment cradles me. To another’s eyes, to the eyes of an older, wiser person, this small leap is nothing, but to a child, it is endless. The warm air streams past, my eyes full of clarity. The trees are beautiful…
…and then leaves fill my vision. Not the orange and yellow of the sky-leaves, but the muddy, dirt brown of ground-leaves. I lie there, as the musty smell permeates my mind. Along with the first realizations of pain. The wet, worried feeling of my knees, the thumping bass drum of my head, and the metallic, coppery flavor in my mouth. I sit up, eyes filling with tears, which scamper down my cheeks and leap to the ground. Just like me. Scampering and leaping. I am no longer a bird, I am a tear droplet, scattering onto the earth.
My tights, once white, now candy-cane striped with red rivulets, cling to the dry brown as I pick myself up. Always more lithe, more graceful than I, Ruthie slides to the ground. A monkey, dark and worried. “Ohmigosh, are you ok?” voice squeaking nervously.
“Ow.” In a small voice, tasting salt tears and metal, the flavor of a penny I once tasted, when I was small. She is shrieking now, something about blood. Darting away, to the comfort and authority of the grown-ups indoors. I don’t understand, still. The sun is so warm, the leaves so vibrant, the air so sweet, how can anything be wrong? Can’t I do anything, today?
All of a sudden, pain. The tip of my tongue, blunt blunt blunt where it should be round. Wet. Stinging. “Ow.” Tears sliding down cheeks like rain down a window pane. Window pain. “Ow, Ow… ow…” The worried feeling in my knees getting worse. I can’t fly. What was I thinking? I am not a bird, or a teardrop. I am just a little girl. I sit back down as this realization crashes over me, a wave of dawning understanding. “I gotcha,” says a soothing voice in my ear, strong arms scooping me up from the dirt and back into the air again. “Looks like she bit her tongue pretty bad,” continues the strong-arms voice, “Might’ve bit the tip clean off, too much blood to be able to tell, but I don’t think it’s very serious.”
Not serious? My warm red inside blood is rapidly becoming the ground’s cool brownish outside blood. Pain, pain, pain, like a throbbing bassline, still coursing through me. Tears still slicking my cheeks with damp. I am carried up and away from my crash site, into the building and into reality.
Reality is not all its cracked up to be.
I am seated in a stiff wooden chair, slats digging into my back like prodding fingers. Tights are removed, blood sticking them to the abrasions on my legs and making my skin cry out in little whimpers of pain. Band-aids are firmly applied, and an orange popsicle gently pushed against the prickling sting that is my tongue. The sweet-sick flavor mingles with the penny already in my mouth, creating a whole new flavor. MY flavor. Once the bleeding slows, I am pronounced “fine” by the strong-arms voice, and told to run along and play. But I am NOT fine. The children worm their way toward me, come, come, come play, but I cannot come play. I am injured, and demand retaliation. I am not so easily deterred.
I decide I know what must be done. I am an avenger, a titan, an extraterrestrial being sent here to teach these silly people that they do NOT know everything.
The air inside the classroom is synthetic tasting, clinical, flavored with expo markers and sanitizer. It calls me back from the lure of the earthy, warm air outside, the lure of flight. I hear my name, and it’s her. The princess. “Are…are you ready to come back outside?” she asks hesitantly, looking dark eyed worried for me. I do NOT need her pity! I am a winged bird of vengeance!
A teacher tells me that I really am fine, and wouldn’t I like to go outside now? Smiling sweetly at her, I work up a mouth of spit, sweet tasting orange metal spit, and unleash it onto the cool hard tiles. There. When I smile again, it is in pride, because there in the little puddle, there are specks of red. My red. My metal-penny orange flavored victory blood.
Take that, princess. I always win.