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The Song of the Swings
She sat on the park bench overlooking the mountain. Her withered hands lay folded in her lap. The passage of time had drawn lines in her skin the same way it turns creeks into canyons.
Everyday she sat in the same place. Everyday I walked past her on my stroll through the park. And everyday as I passed she asked the same question.
"Do you hear them singing?"
To which I would always deliver the same response, "I hear nothing but the wind in the trees and the children at play." Day in and day out.
I saw her from a long way off this morning. The leaves had changed colors and dropped from the trees, leaving their branches barren and my vision uninhibited.
Children played far off, their shrieks, giggles and cries echoing from the playground. The gravel crunched underfoot as I rounded the bend.
Never once did her gaze shift from the mountain, but she must have heard my footsteps, because as I grew near she asked her question.
"Do you hear them singing?"
To which on every other day I would have replied with the typical line. But today something about her stayed me, and my response caught in my throat. Perhaps it was the way the cold air turned her blue eyes to ice, or the way her voice sounded as if it came not from her, but from far away. Perhaps it was a change in myself.
Whatever it was, it gave me pause. It made me speak.
"Who do you hear?"
"The sounds of my youth. The song of the swings." She chuckled.
"I've always wanted to be a bird. The swings gave me wings. The mountain made me dream." She paused. Blinked once, twice.
I shifted uncomfortably on my feet, regretting speaking, and preparing to continue on my walk.
"I flew, you know. Not really, but in my mind." She smiled a crooked grin. The lines around her eyes scrunched together, and the ice inside the blue seemed to melt.
“I swung until I was afraid I'd fall, all the while watching my mountain. And then, at the top of the swing, I flew. There was no ground below, only the air, the mountain, and I.
“I can still see it, you know. The mountain. Not in my eyes, but in my mind. It's so clear. Crisp as the air.”
Her voice trailed off and her eyes grew cold once again, fixed on the mountain they loved but could not see. She smiled softly as I turned to leave. "Listen, darling. Hush. Listen to them sing."