The Play in Playground

By Gabrielle Pelayo

“Childhood. It is a time where individuals are youthful and free to explore the world around them. Imagination runs rampant through a child’s mind and lets them soar to new heights.”

Sophia pondered over the opening quote for a moment as she sat in her comfortable blue chair in her living room. She had just opened up her book and already was met with a reminder of the childhood she wished she had. Her parents were strict, at least she thought they were; their own pasts were a wreck and they did not want the same to happen to their daughter. Sophia had been disciplined in a way that took the play out of playground and made her see books as tools of learning and only learning. She lived a safe life.

Sophia had graduated high school with flying colors because of this lifestyle. When she entered college, though, those bland memories returned to her. It made her associate’s degree in the sciences seem like the top of Mount Everest; the light at the end of the darkest tunnel. She could never concentrate and at one point almost failed. Sophia barely held herself together those two years, but in a quick turnaround, she was able to raise her grades, enlist help in a weekly therapist, and earn her degree.

Now she had an apartment, a job, and a boyfriend, preparing for her next four years of rigorous academics. She actually had three left; the first went by with ease. Sophia was taking a break from her studying and had decided to read a book, hoping to learn something new. It was then when she saw the quote.

Her boyfriend, Logan, was seated in another blue chair across from her, watching television. He turned to look at her and noticed her staring up at the screen, a sad expression painted on her face. “Are you alright, Sophia?” he asked her. “I thought you wanted to read.”

“I know, but-” Sophia began to explain, but she paused. She could not find the right words to explain it. So she gestured for Logan to look at the quote instead. He stood up, crossed to her, and read it intensely, taking longer than necessary.

“Oh, I get it,” he finally commented. “Nostalgia.”

Sophia gave Logan a doubting look. “Is that even the right word for it?” she asked. “Nostalgia is the recollection of fond memories from a time in your life. A good time.” Sophia set down the book and made her way to the kitchen. She poured herself a glass of lemonade while asking aloud, “How can you recall a good time that never happened?”

Logan lingered behind her, unsure how to respond. Rather, whether to respond at all. He slowly approached Sophia and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. The warmth signaled her to turn around. Her ocean blue eyes gradually glanced up into his emerald green ones, the eye contact a little hesitant.

“When I said I get it, I guess I lied,” Logan said. “But now I understand. You mean your childhood, right?”

Sophia took her gaze elsewhere. “I suppose you could say that,” she responded, taking a sip of lemonade. “I wish I had had one to begin with. But my parents wanted me to be safe, so they did everything they could to keep me from dangerous things. I compromised my youthful freedom for a life of safety and studies. I don’t think I can remember a time in my childhood when I had fun.” Before she said anything else, she turned back to Logan. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I’m getting worked up over a stupid quote. You didn’t have to listen to that whole rant.”

  “I wanted to,” Logan replied. “Even though we had drastically different pasts, I understand how you must be feeling and I want to make it up to you.” He took Sophia by the hand and began leading her out of the apartment.

Sophia nearly dropped her lemonade as the jolt yanked her out of the kitchen. “Where are we going?” Sophia asked, quickly setting the cup down on the table and grabbing her jacket off the coat rack as she was being pulled away. She was both confused and slightly curious.

“It’s a surprise. You’ll see when we get there.”

Logan took Sophia outside to the building’s parking lot. He guided her into his car, hopped in, and turned on the ignition. Logan navigated his way through the rest of the sleeping machines and sped away when the rubber tires rolled onto the street. He instructed Sophia to keep her eyes shut until they arrived. Sophia was kept in the dark, and all she could hear was the sound of other cars passing and the radio blasting pop music.

About ten minutes later, the car slowed to a stop. Sophia discreetly opened an eye, quickly observing her location, unable to discern any clear details. “Where are we, Logan?” she asked, beginning to open the other eye.

“Eyes must remain closed at all times,” said Logan, turning the car off. “Unbuckle and I’ll open the door for you.”

Sophia’s curiosity—something that she personally thought was extinct except in a classroom setting—was growing exponentially. She felt Logan take her hand and lead her away from the car. She heard children laughing and playing and a fountain nearby. After a moment, the two stopped walking and remained still.

“Okay, open your eyes,” Logan instructed.

Sophia did so and was met by the sight of a playground. There were a few slides winding in multiple directions, and a swing set with twelve swings attached. In the center was an assortment of different climbing walls and monkey bars. Everything was painted in incredibly vibrant colors, luring children of all ages to come play. And indeed the playground was doing its job; there were children running all around, their parents sitting on nearby benches, enjoying seeing their children getting along and making new friends. 

She raised an eyebrow in confusion. “Why are we here?” she asked her partner. 

Logan ran to the swing set and hopped onto one of them. He propelled himself forwards and backwards, building more momentum until he reached the maximum height. “You want a childhood? Here you go!” he answered enthusiastically. “How many times have you wanted to play on a playground like this? Come on! There’s no one stopping you but yourself!”

Sophia could not help but feel emotional. Tears were forming in the corners of her eyes as a wave of happiness swept her up. For the first time in her life, she felt like a child. A real, youthful, imaginative, free child. She rushed to the swings and joined her partner.

This was an experience that was years overdue.       

Learn more about Gabrielle in her bio on the Featured Authors page.

Published by HLWW Featured Author

Featured Author of the Heartland Society of Women Writers

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