i rode my bike back to my old neighbourhood, took the long way. went as fast as i could so the wind swept my hair back and rushed through my chest, making me feel like the air itself, making me feel like i could race time if i wanted. i rode past the place that marks the spot where there used to be a playground that my dad helped to build. they demolished it a few years ago, when the school was host to a junior high instead of an elementary, and the junior high kids would just trash it and harass the little kids from the school across the field. i rode past my old house, the one we lived in before this one. we left it when i was seven and the memories i have of it get vaguer every year. i remember the chickadee that used to call outside my window in the mornings, the daycare center across the street that woke me up early no matter what day of the week it was. the stairs to the basement were carpeted with red shag, we used to lay a mattress on them and slide down it. i remember the backyard had a crabapple tree and a box garden my dad built that i buried my frog prince in when he died of heat shock in the bathtub when i tried to take a bath with him. i was seven. i remember being small for my age, thinking everything was bigger than it was, like the boulders behind the two large pines on the front yard that really weren't boulders at all, just slightly larger than usual rocks. i thought i was a faerie behind those trees, on the boulders. i would sit and make up stories to myself, creating faerie friends and a whole kingdom in that shadowed space.
i rode past my house, past the houses of friends i used to know who no longer live there either. i went to the park i loved as a kid. it used to have a rocket ship you could climb in, one of those ones made of steel or aluminum, some kind of old playground metal. the ones that had the poison in the paint, they had to tear them all down. there is a helicopter in its place now, made of materials that are probably a lot more kid-safe, although you never know. i'm sure they didn't think those other metal playgrounds were bad for kids thirty years ago, they probably thought they'd made them as safe as possible. safe is a really difficult thing to define. i don't sit in the helicopter, i would have felt like a traitor. how can a helicopter compare to a rocketship? so i swing instead. the first swing squeaks so loudly that it echoes off the houses surrounding the park and suddenly the scene feels sinister. something about playgrounds at night. i switch to the other swing, it doesn't squeak in such a horror movie way. i saw a shooting star and counted myself lucky once again. somehow i always catch shooting stars, i always see them when no one else does. sometimes i think maybe it's because seeing a shooting star always reminds me of the first time i saw one when i was eight, lying on my back in wet grass in a village in british columbia in the middle of a steaming summer. now i'm always on the look out for them, always staring at the sky.
the ride home is mostly downhill, so i pedal fast and sail down the sidewalk. the bike is the boat, i am the mast, my hair and my clothes are the sails catching wind.