Kruger Park

Picture a park, any park. Maybe the one you grew up with down the street or the one next to your elementary school.
It consists of a vast grassy field with trees scattered here and there in many different shapes and sizes. There is a basketball court that’s rusted all over and the nets torn apart, a swing set that creaks a bit too loud and the swings sway at different levels from being twisted up by troublesome teens. There is a play-set that’s faded and cracked from the weather and surrounded by dirty sand containing many lost objects and cigarette buds. A soccer field and maybe a makeshift volleyball court that the children who play there would call, “the big sandbox” and some worn down graffitied park benches scattered amongst the trees.
Are you picturing it yet? If you are you may be reminiscing on spring days or summer nights. You may be recalling the initials you and what’s-there-face carved together when you thought it was love or when you scraped your knee playing tag by the drinking fountain.
Or maybe you’re thinking of the place you go when you need to feel safe and it feels as if you are the only person left in the world.
Wherever your park may be and what memories dwell within it imagine if that very park had eyes and ears and a soul. That it watched you and everything you went through and it knew your story better than you.
Now, you may go ahead and conjure the image I’ve given you and put a petite brunette in one of those noisy swings and before her two boys throwing a piece of red plastic back and forth and this is where B’s story begins.
She swings lightly, watching them grow sweatier and more playful like dogs with a toy as they leapt and cursed and groaned with concentration. A tiny smirk crosses her lips when they glance over to make sure she’s still watching.
They came here every day like ritual. Sometimes twice in one day but always when darkness fell and everything became still. They’d walk to every corner or sit on the darkest park bench and pass around their high wrapped roughly into a cigar. They’d talk about their asshole co-workers or their selfish parents between smoky exhales. There would be laughter and sometimes sadness but unknown to them- every emotion, every word and every action was being observed by the trees and the wind and the yellowing grass beneath their feet.
When B talked to one she would smile and tilt her head into the swing’s chain but her eyes would be locked with the other’s. She loved her secrets and the feeling of forbidden love and playing with hearts for fun.
When they got hungry, tired or bored she’d stand up, tugging at her jeans a bit and then walk in the middle of the two boys, ever so slightly brushing fingers against the one she favored that night as they disappeared from the park’s view.
***
One face was dark and angered as he watched the other in disgust from across the bench. The other ripped at the little green stems in careful concentration but would break it ever so slightly to sneak a glance at B who sat on the table with her head drawn back to the sky. The stars were almost non-existent in the city but she’d search for them regardless.
After their heads were clouded and their eyes were bloodshot they’d listen as B would go into long speeches, rants and monologues about her beliefs, thoughts, existence, anything really. B had the kind of voice that you could listen to for hours, soothing and exciting all at the same time. Perhaps that’s why she was able to keep their attention for so long, before things began to crumble.
***
The sun smiled vibrantly and cast great cooling shadows beneath the trees. B was perched on a shaded bench in the company of a freckled girl with short red hair whom she referred to as her best friend, although the park had only seen them together once or twice.
She let out a shaky breath as she stared out at the two boys and their red Frisbee as she confessed a secret, I think I’m falling in love with him.
The freckled girl scrunched up her face in disgust, But you’re way out of his league.
B laughed and watched as the boy she set her sights on made a proud catch and looked her way to see them both staring curiously.
His face mocked insecurity but his grin broke character, he knew she was talking about him but not the context.
The other boy’s face darkened at the exchange and they quickly returned to their game.
B continued to watch in admiration with a particular look in her eyes. A look known too well to this park. There was many lovers that had rolled in the grass, stared at the clouds, made promises and vows, exchanged kisses and touch but there was always a look, the same naive and completely helpless look.
***
It was early, maybe five or six when the three tiredly found their way to a damp bench and lit their vices in silence. It had been a few weeks since the park had been visited by them. The stiffness in B’s body and her hungry eyes growing more ravenous by the second showed there had been a fresh infliction of hurt. She longed so desperately for some type of connection that would never be full-filled. B did not speak much this time, her mind was elsewhere and the two boys beside her were wore down.
***
It was dark and the air thick and hot. B approached a bench with a new boy the park had never seen her with. They talked for many hours, her heart poured out and he tried to relate with similar pain. B was losing herself in sadness and trying to find anything or anyone that could make sense of the mess she’d created for herself. The park never saw the boy return with B again. They didn’t leave until the sun peeked into the sky and the birds began to wake.
***
B carefully followed only one boy to a shaded bench with a cherry sucker protruding her cheek. The wind was strong that day and the air crisp. She watched as he rolled and then she fumbled around with her phone.
Why am I so gross? She tugged at bits of her hair and poked and prodded her face. He looked up from concentration for a moment in awe,
You’re not gross, B. You’re beautiful. She smiled and laughed, reaching out a hand to place on his thigh. Their eyes met for a long time. The third boy was no where to be found.
***
The next few months B came and went. The boy and her exchanged many laughs, kisses and stories.
In time, the smiles and love began to fade and soon there were fights and pain. Hurtful and regretful words were spoken and B’s heart began to crumble.
***
It was sunny but the air still felt cold and that cold crept into B’s skin as she sat alone on a bench with red-rimmed eyes. She had brought with her an assortment of items that had been purchased earlier that day with her last money. There was a sealed bottle of Coca-Cola, Pringles and a package of utility blades. She dialed her grandfather because she wanted to hear his voice and tell him she loved him but there was no answer. Black birds were gathering in the trees around her and the distant voices of children playing games from the elementary school nearby echoed all around her. She had a list of pros and cons about her life. Her heart was bleeding and her mind was clouded. Young love can be a tricky thing and heartbreak is agonizing but B had so much life force still pumping through her that the steel only bit deep enough to make crimson run shortly and then clot.
***
B began a new ritual with the park. She came there to eat, to read, to think. Each time she’d bring that package of utility blades and ponder her life. She’d scrunch up her face and sob till her eyes were swollen and her head was pounding and then she would leave, like clockwork. The park continued to watch B be conflicted with taking her own life again and again. Her frustration with herself grew and she’d mutter through tears and a constricted throat, Why can’t I just fucking do it. Her wrists were decorated with lines, some white and old and some an angry red that was painfully fresh.
***
The third boy that the park had not seen in some time came back and B’s smile returned. Her face was bright and she cried tears of joy.
***
B’s joy was short lived as she had missed a few periods since the other boy and her stopped coming together. The park was covered in darkness and bitter cold. She held a box containing a little white stick in petrified hands as the boy looked at her with fear in his eyes. Fear he masked by a joking taunt, The girl at the counter was so cute I felt embarrassed. She must have thought I was such a fuck up.
B’s heart sank and her face fell.
Positive +
***
B returned to the park a week later with all the hope and love drained from her face. She was barely recognizable, her eyes dull and sunken from restless nights and her skin pale. She seemed lifeless, a body with no soul. She carried in her pocket a little baggy containing the hair of her dog that had passed away in her arms just days before she lost the life growing inside her. She had no list this time, only a bottle of opioids and a shiny new razor blade.
It was bright and sunny, not the type of day you would think a beautiful young girl would be taking her life and yet there B was, swallowing one pill at a time. One, two, three, four, five, six but as she was on her seventh she looked up at the sound of laughter.
The wind picked up just slightly enough to cause a small boy’s kite to land near B. As the child approached he gave her a sweet smile and she smiled back, her heart filling with warmth. He picked up his kite, Do you like my kite? he giggled shyly and waved it around playfully. Warm tears swelled up in B’s now bright eyes as she nodded, That’s the best kite I’ve ever seen.
***
B’s face gleamed brightly as she stroked shades of greens and blues onto a little canvas on the park’s bench. Her cheeks were rosy and her skin glowing with health. She focused intently on painting the park’s view with a little kite soaring through the sky. There was a light smile resting on her lips and fading scars on her skin.
B would have many more loves come and go, there would be many more tears and perhaps many more scars but there would also be many more laughs and much more love. And she would get through it all because no matter how alone she felt she never really was, there was always the trees and the grass and the swings and the benches that made up the park and the park was always watching over B.

Everything around us has an energy, a life force. Sometimes it’s not a person, but a place that can be your friend and your comfort. So I encourage you to go to that place when you’re feeling like your world is ending, because odds are it’s listening and looking after you more than you know.




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