She led him to a playground in the winter night.
“Oh, look at this,” she said. Her soles sank into the rubber flooring hardened by the wind. She sat on a teeter totter, waiting for him. He had never been on one since he was four. Then, it was his grandmother, zigzag cut bricks, and yellow paint on metal. There was no protective rubber flooring. He had soared into the air and felt the strength of his grandmother’s years carry him in each rise and fall. He was no longer that light, but still carried with him the longing of childhood. He saw her waiting for him. They rose to fall, they rose to fall. But the teeter totter was bounded to a spring. He hastened their cycles, afraid of falling off, afraid of its stopping. Why is he going so fast, she thought. The faster he went, the more the spring resisted. They got off, her laughing. He would never know the source of her laughter.
She stood up on the end of the teeter totter, searching for stability. Did she find some stability in him? He reached out his hand. “Come closer,” she said. He stood by her as she rose towards the spring. “This is a trust exercise,” she said when she passed the spring. She held on to him as she walked across the beam. What if she fell the other way? There would be nothing to catch her but herself. Yet what if she fell on him? How could you fall onto someone who doesn’t know what he’s made of? But it was not dangerous, it was not exciting. If she fell she’d fall on protective rubber flooring. Being with him, she didn’t feel alive.
They walked to the night swing. “There’s a swing!” she beamed. His father would lie in bed, reading about whatever amuses him. He learned the concept of sedateness from his father. Now he was wholly unprepared for her energy, her rush of life. “You didn’t know how to live until this moment,” she said as he swung in the night sky. Memory does make it sweeter, he thinks. He gained speed and height. Her eyes followed his tracing of the night. At the highest point he got to, he let go of himself and felt for that ephemeral instant the tentative yearning for a childhood long ago; when the rise and fall meant nothing more than physical exhilaration.
“Jump,” she said. But instead he let the time pass. The swing lost its height. He lost that energy he could have had and stumbled off instead. She walked away.
She climbed onto a penis pole that could swing. He got on another, further away but facing her. On that Sunday night the cold froze a curtain of royal blue behind the Toronto skyline. He watched the red light flicker up the CN Tower, the yellow light pulse like city stars. That night that held everything, that held her in that brief moment swinging on a pole, seemed to ponder about the boy and the girl. What was their relationship about? Two children wandering the deserted night, no witness but the waves of the lake. She laughed as she saw him swinging too. Their breaths fogged up the clarity of the night sky. He wishes he had took a picture then.
There was a metal bowl that he would never have noticed if she was not there. “It spins!” she said. She got on and he spun her. He spun it faster and faster until she said she was going to slide off because the orbit was on a tilt. “Get in with me,” she said, “you’ll have to run it.” And so he did. He ran and jumped in the bowl and fell on her. They laughed like two children who both felt the joy of silliness. They spun around and around together under the sparkling curtain, both knowing very well that this is who they are, two souls in this world who have found the other. They spun until the weight of themselves stopped the spinning. They got off and walked away from the playground, enclosed in the cases of their thoughts in perfect loneliness.
They walked over to the Distillery, past Sugar beach and the Redpath sugar factory. Under the flame that warmed their faces he saw a fire in her eyes. He gazed fixedly at that light that was something inside her, a fire that was once for another boy, and for others in other times. She’s searching for something, and he’s in love with her search. At that moment all his emotions balanced on that beam of light between their eyes. At the end she would find nothing, and he would not know that he is the nothingness she found. There was no protective rubber flooring but the emptiness of the night sky. At that moment all there was to do was to give her a kiss, a tentative one that would gently swing their fragile feelings. But he did not. For him, a kiss was a gift of love that filled him with too much uncertainty. But all would have become certainty, whatever that might be, if he had gave her that kiss.