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We used to go there all the time. Every summer you and I. We’d jump out of the car and sprint to the big metal frame of the rocketship. The behemoth towering above the treetops looking out over LA. We’d climb and climb up the levels of the ship till it seemed like we were as tall as the clouds, looking down on our parents below us, waving at them from atop our perch.
We’d sit up there for hours you and I. Talking about board games and superheroes, our favorite tv shows and what we wanted to be when we grew up.
“I want to be an astronaut” you’d say to me, grinning ear to ear
“I’ll be your copilot!” was my response
You’d leap up and grab the wheel, starting up the metal beast and flying us to mars and I would pull out my invisible binoculars. You navigated the spaceship through the universe, while I stood lookout for alien spacecrafts.
We danced on mars you and I, we twirled round and round then walked in loopy zig zags, blaming the lack of gravity when we’d fall. We’d topple over and giggle at our inability to adjust to the space atmosphere.
We found meteors on mars you and I, you helped me distinguish between alien remains and mars rocks and I helped you make patterns in the burnt red sand. Sand doodles on mars were created by you and I.
We explored mars you and I. We’d swing on monkey bars over space goo swamps then climb up ladders and through jungle gyms, created by ancient life that had once lived there. We’d dive through tunnels and slide down down down in a swirly thing that dumped us back onto the sand.
We would leave Mars behind you and I, when we received a telegram from earth letting us know that our moms had made dinner and we had to go back home. We would stuff our pockets with the last bits of mars rocks and scramble back into the spaceship, up up up into the command center where we’d take off and fly home, faster than the speed of light!
And just in time for dinner.
We grew up you and I. The real world pushed us apart. I didn’t go to Redondo in the summers as much, and you didn’t live across the street from my grandparents anymore. I saw you at their funerals this year but you’re only a vague character from my past, you materialized on those sad days but my grief engulfed me and I didn’t see you through my tears.
We left mars behind for good you and I. We parked our rocketship and didn’t return. I wonder if it still there. Would I still find our footprints in the burnt red sand on that planet so far away?
I went back to Rocketship Park over Christmas break. I parked the car, walked across the grass and climbed up the rusty frame of my childhood. I had to hunch over just to fit and I had to do a double take when I realized that our rocketship wasn’t much taller than the trees. But I still worked my way up to the command center.
I cried up in that rocketship without you. I cried over the loss of my childhood, my grandparents, our friendship, my innocence. I cried for everything we had done and all the things we could never do again. I turned to look at the metal wheel that you once used to fly us through space. I spun it in my hands but I knew that rocketship was nothing more than a climbing structure now. It would never again fly to mars. I began to descend the ladders down to the bottom of the wire frame when something caught my eye.
We left our mark on that rocketship you and I. Our code names written on the side of the ladder. “Captain Night Hawk and Copilot Storm of the rocketship of rocketship park, best rocketship pilot and alien watchout copilot there ever was...we found mars!” in scrawly handwriting with exclamation points and drawings of planets, we made sure everyone knew us.
As I walked out of that rocketship and piloted my car back home I said goodbye to you and I.