When I first saw the playground from afar, I realized how exciting it was. It was so beautiful and shiny. The slide was so tall! The sandboxes so deep! A child’s paradise! Oh how I wanted to set foot on that playground! I saw it, and I knew, I just knew, that I would claim it as mine someday.
I craved this playground because of the joy it brought to me in my dreams. I dreamt of this playground many nights. The dreams were usually vivid and I could remember them after waking up.
In one of my dreams, I grabbed on to the sparkly surface of the monkey bars and I just hung there, without a care in the world. I enjoyed the feeling of blood rushing to my head after hanging upside-down for a while. I always went to the monkey bars on the playground in my dreams. I could’ve stayed on them forever, in that state of bliss and carelessness.
I never thought enough of myself to come close to it though. It was so beautiful, all I needed to do was see it, and I was happy. I wanted to set foot in the playground, but I was too afraid of what might happen if I did. I could fall from the slide or slip from the monkey bars and break my arm. I thought that maybe one day I’d overcome my fear.
That one day did come. A force greater than all other forces pulled me towards the playground. As I came close to it, I saw an opportunity to take in its grandeur. I only looked at it from beyond the fence. It tantalized my senses. I could imagine myself running up to the monkey bars and feeling their cool, polished surface. I wished for more, but it was late and I had to return home before dark.
I ran all the way from the playground to home, thinking all the while about those monkey bars.
The next day, I decided to go back. I was going to play on the playground, finally!
I ran faster and smiled wider when I saw the luster from afar. The sight of the playground filled me to the brim with such awe! It was beautiful! Every surface was so shiny and bright!
But suddenly, I stopped. I stopped because I was up close and I could see everything with greater detail. My heart dropped. It was as if an earthquake trembled through my chest. A tear rolled down my cheek. The wind whipped my hair around my head, and the whole atmosphere in the playground was shifting. My smile quickly faded and I had to stop myself from screaming.
I cursed at the wind and at myself.
The bars were so dilapidated! Every bar that wasn’t hanging on by a limp weld had fallen off. I went up to the resting place. To the victims of oxidation and time. It felt like a graveyard, a war zone. I picked up one of the sad bars and ran my fingers along its rusty, chipped surface. It left a dirty stinging cut on my finger.
It was far too sad to be true.
I looked up, just as a final hope that I was seeing something different from reality. However, what I was seeing was the truth.
I could see the shadow of the play set looming over me like a phantom. Faint and ominous children’s laughter was echoing through the wind. The basketball hoops were devoid of their nets, the swing sets swaying as if being propelled by ghosts. The slide and its once slick surface was now a defeated, defaced, and mangled piece of plastic. It was cracked in half and was barely held together. The graffiti sprayed over its once shiny shell did more than enough to tell me that this place was no longer welcoming. The sandbox looked weary. It was devoid of its white, beach-like sand. The only things that were left inside its four wooden walls were sand burrs, rocks, and trash.
I was shocked. Could it really be? Was I completely ignorant to the real world? Did this really look like a paradise to me? A place where children could play, could pretend? Did I really see this place as awe-inspiring?
I looked around again. What I saw was not like my dream at all.
No. There were no shiny surfaces. In fact, the only thing shining was the sun. Even the sun did not inspire me. It did not fill me with hope.
Inside, I cursed myself for being so foolish. Things like this were always too good to be true. I silently cried out, “Why?”, but the wind was the only one to hear me.
This was not at all what I had dreamt.
I was so infuriated that I took the rung that was in my hand and threw it as far away as I could. I sat down, defeated, like a child throwing a temper tantrum.
I sat in sadness a while. I recalled the amazing things that once happened in this playground. The laughter, the love, the recess, the friendships that must have formed. From that, I found enough strength to stand up. I ran home, angry at myself for believing that this playground would be as amazing as it was in my dreams. The playground doesn’t exist in the same state as it used to.
The school next to it has been abandoned for years. What led me to believe that the playground would be any different?
The epiphany stung me like a wasp;
Too long has it sat in disrepair to be mended to its original and glorious state. For it I would cry, if that weren’t so true. No more children will find repose or laughter in that fenced in once-heaven. To follow their dreams to that hell would only bring them defeat and sadness.
Follow the mirage of luster like a moth and you will find yourself burned. If you happen to get burned, remember that there are always remedies for pain. Always remember yourself and what brings you true happiness, so that when you find that your playground is not as it seemed, you will have yourself.