The summer sun made my skin tingle, which I guessed was the feeling of being slowly broiled. I could feel the heat of the rubber black seat seep through my shorts, and I refrained from touching the swing’s metal chains. Sweat dampened my socks, and I could feel sand building at the toe of my shoes as I half-heartedly pushed myself to and fro. My friend, Dahlia, sat in the swing next to me, clutching the chains and staring at the empty red playground. The wind blew tiny dust devils across the sand.
“Say something,” she mumbled, letting go of the chains and massaging her hands. Her palms were red and blistering.
“Like what?” I asked. What could I say? In my sixteen years of life, I’d never been confronted with this situation.
“Anything. I’m dying here.”
I looked at her. This girl who I thought I knew after she stepped away from the protection behind our mothers’ legs; this girl who zipped her heart shut for so many years, was now a girl who tore herself open and needed me like a patch over a fresh wound. But I was only a band-aid, and she was bleeding more than I could staunch.
Her long ebony hair hid her face as the wind blew wisps of it around her head. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
I inhaled the dust surrounding us. “I’m thinking of how I couldn’t see it before, or why you never told me about it.”
“How could I tell you? I barely knew myself.” Her voice was thick as she stared down at her raw hands. “My parents are gonna kill me if they find out.”
“No they won’t. They love you.”
“You don’t know my parents.” She kicked sand into the air and watched the wind carry it away. “They want people like me to burn in Hell.”
I rubbed slick palms across my shorts and bit dry skin off my lip. Then I said, “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I think you deserve to be in heaven.” She looked at me with blue glossy eyes, and I smiled back. “We’ve endured the early terrors of puberty, and I think that’s punishment enough.”
She managed to giggle, and I swung over to bump her seat with mine. We swayed like that until our swings stilled and our laughter quieted. She was the one to start speaking again as she looked up at the blue sky. “What do you think would happen if I swung really high and jumped off?”
I pondered her question for a second, saw the muscles in her bare arms tense as she twisted her wrists around the chains, and then I replied, “You’d probably break something.”
“We’ll see.” She gripped the chains again and began to rock back and forth, pushing off the sand to add some height. Her swings became smoother, longer, stronger, until she let go and soared through the air. For the briefest moment, it seemed as if she floated. But gravity possessed her again and threw her into the sand. A wave of sand rose and fell when she landed on her heels. She flailed her arms, her legs buckled, and then she collapsed onto her back. Her hair spread around her head like petals on a flower.
I rushed over to her and saw that she was laughing, her arms over her eyes, her cheeks glistening with tears.
I swallowed my heart that crept up my throat and asked, “Is anything broken?”
She shook her head and started to sob.
I lay down beside her, feeling the same sting of the sand against her skin. Grains slipped into my shirt, hid in my scalp, crammed into my fingernails. “What hurts?”
“Everything,” she managed to choke out, “and nothing.”
Eva Marino is new to the literary world, and this is her first published piece. However, she is experienced in studio art, and had three paintings showcased at the Tempe Center for the Arts three years in a row during her high school career. Additionally, her art has won second place twice in the Tempe Sister Cities Art Contests, and has won third place in the Arizona Congressional Art Contest. Currently, she is studying Visual Communications at Northern Arizona University, and is following her passion for writing and drawing.
Read an interview with Eva here.