Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Secret Playground

I’d swear the house was a historical artifact of some kind. It was made of wood that had long lost its flavor and had become more like what’s left of wood when digested by some kind of acid: grey, mossy, and suspiciously speckled. From the outside, the house looked deserted and even dead. Even spirits wouldn’t want to go into this little two-story cabin, with large wood-frame windows. Two on the front of the house on the second floor recalled eyes; but not eyes ever lit by fire or passion or vision, just dull, dark squares.

Despite the dilapidated condition of it, the house was actually my kindergarten classroom, at least on the first floor. In the little classroom with blue chairs and desks, I’d have my first fight, my childhood enemy pushing me onto the yellowish wall. My left front tooth on the top bears a little triangular chip in it still; I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone how that happened. In here, I’d have my first crush. A light-skinned little girl named S, with the biggest eyes and the whitest smile, just inflamed my little mind, maybe my heart too. Of course, I was barely six. One day when we are playing Vampires vs. Hunters, I will be the vampire who infects her; I sneaked a little kiss on her neck. It would be the scandal of the school yard that day. Recess was filled with shouts and teasing, “He kissed her!” I’d turn red under my brown skin and run away, my power ranger sneakers lighting my escape.

Around this school house was a huge yard, just exactly what kids needed. It was sandy but not grainy; I think a lot of grass grew there among the trees which seemed gigantic to us miniscule little people. There was a cashew tree, which would bloom pinkish purple and sometimes drop delicious pink fruit. Biting into that white flesh would fill my mouth with the sweetest juices known to men, little men like us. Then, there was the tamarind tree, the grandfather of us all. Without doubt, it easily spanned half of the yard and was hundreds of feet high. We would find its brown, hard-shelled pods but could not understand how to eat them. In any case, it was unlike any delicious fruit we had ever seen; tamarind is not fleshy, aromatic, or attractive even by sight. Then, there were the trees that seemed to be there for nothing, no fruits, just occasionally spraying us with leaves, shading us from rain. What do plants do for us anyway? It would be another six years before I’d heard of photosynthesis.

If you looked straight at the school house, staring into its shadowed eyes, and then turned about forty degrees to the left, you’d be on a treasure trail. We just walked to the side of the house; behind the tamarind tree, there was a little opening in the grass right next to the school house, a large swathe of untamed land lay virgin and wild. I remember going in there, with R and another S and getting lost in the detailed shapes of the fallen trees, the tall grass that covered our heads, and the little hollows in the undulating earth. There were no words in those days, just sounds, screams, joyous abandonment of civilization. In seconds, just feet away from the school house, we made worlds unknown to science and things untouched by mankind.

We had greater secrets, too. Deeper in the lost forest, tropical rains would create special places. One day, it had thundered for an entire morning; the skies let go of its tears. By school end, a tender sun was shining; warmness filled me with happiness as we ventured into our domain. A tree had collapsed; a medium brown uncle had a trunk split through. The fallen edge rested on another tree; in front of it a stream of water stagnated. We went through this gateway and continued onwards. Among the trees were ferns; each green triangle glistened with wetness.

Sometimes, water dripped from high tree tops and gather on the fern, weighing it down, till plop- and the water would find its way to the ground. Crawling through some tough grasses, we came to a little clearing where a large hole lived. But, a hole is an empty thing; the way had filled it to the brim and it was green with the foliage around it. What’s a treasure that comes after a cry but finds itself gone in a dry? The mirror smiled back at us as we made faces. The soothing wind whistled some mysterious song as the birds followed along. And we stood there, for a moment, making a memory that would take at least an eternity to forget.


  1. Lorenzo, this so beautiful...the vividness of it has the strong, sharp taste of memory. So delicious---yet so near yet so far. I long for these kinds of moments. I wish there was a way to have them still...

    I especially love your lines about creating worlds that are untouched by mankind. So happy you're continuing your writing! I still need to share with you one of my short stories I wrote for fiction class last year!

  2. thanks jenny! i just randomly remembered this moment on a plane ride and had to write about it. maybe we can still have them? let's escape....