“Come on, Sarie, we can run into the woods. They can’t ever catch us; we can run away, we can run away ...” These words plague me: they are the words that ended my childhood. I can still feel the dampness on my shoulder from the tears spilled by my friend as he uttered those words and they burn.
I had lived in Hawaii all my life, and there we stood, our ragtag group, facing the realization that we had to say good-bye. Until that day, a good-bye was temporary, but on that night, in that moment, good-bye was the world, the beginning, the end ... good-bye was everything. It was the night before my big move, the result of the abrupt decision by my father to live in Maine, his land of milk and honey.
It was dark on the playground that we visited so regularly. Our only light was the moon, which shed enough for me to see every detail of my friends’ faces through my brimming eyes. Light enough to let me see that I was not the only one crying. It wasn’t too late, but my sister and I were still breaking the rules by being there - we were supposed to be home by five o’clock.
We stayed at that playground for hours, knowing my father was out looking for us. It had been an awkward night. Nothing made sense, not when everything we were brought up to know would be gone tomorrow.
Of course, we all felt the same, that this unspeakable force dragging us away from each other could be resisted - we were fighters, every last one of us. From facing the tyrannical rule of the Neighborhood Board to our parents, we stood together. Why should it change? That was our thought when we heard my dad pull up in the parking lot - we had not picked the most unpredictable of places. My best friend buried his face in my shoulder, soaking it with tears, crying that lament that I remember all too well: “They can’t ever catch us; we can run away ...”
The following moment lasted for centuries. Reality no longer had a hold on me, or any of us. In that moment, with my eyes clamped shut, refusing to open to the unfairness of the world, I saw myself, and I wasn’t the girl sitting at the top of a slide desperately clinging to my best friend. I was Wendy, standing on some foreign windowsill being urged to fly away by Peter Pan, who would stay a child forever. I wanted to fly away with him, to be the fighter I knew I was, but to abandon the comfort of my family for a mysterious uncertainty, where life as I knew it would shatter even more than it already had - that was a choice I could not make.
After what seemed like eternity, I opened my eyes and realized that I would never be a child again, and I listened to myself stammer, “I-I can’t. I have to go back. You know we’ll still be friends, that won’t ever change.” But it was a lie, and we both knew it. Nothing ever stays the same, we were old enough to know that. So was my sister. Right then, she was the true romantic, the true hero. She had the courage to do what I could not. She sprinted away with her boyfriend into the darkness, and I knew she had succumbed to Peter Pan’s allure. We would find her, of course, probably even before the night was over, but after that moment we knew she would be a child for much longer, perhaps forever.
My mother approached our playground fortress, asking with her heavy Japanese accent, “Sarie, where is your sister? We look for you all night, you were here? Daddy very worried about you.” And, like a felon being led to the electric chair, I followed her to the van, escorted by my dearest of friends. We wound up staying at the park for a few more hours, with tears and leaky noses, as my father searched for my sister. He would not find her that night; I found out later she had escaped to the Neverland that was the boys’ bathroom. She eventually revealed herself the next morning. Then we caught our flight.
I ended up living in Maine for only a year before moving back to Hawaii, on my own, to finish my senior year. I met up with all my old friends, but what I said was true: Nothing ever stays the same. We had our own schedules, and between AP classes, extracurricular activities, and play rehearsals, we hardly ever hang around like we used to. On the rare occasion we do, though, I sometimes become lost in thought, returning to that night we all stood so somberly in the playground. I return to the place where I lost my innocence in the vast darkness of the night as I stared into the eyes of Peter Pan.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.