The Girl on the Monkey Bars

Written by Winona Wardwell
Art by Chris H

My first memory is of a girl standing above me on the playground stairs. She looks down at me and I look into her dark auburn eyes. She has bangs and a pink headband. She is the same height as me. Originally, I had gone to the playground with my mom to meet people before the first day of kindergarten. She was the only one who showed up with her mother. I do not wonder where everyone is; all my attention is caught up in my new best friend—I guess my first best friend. 

The playground is big, with structures painted all the colors of the rainbow. I grab her hand, perhaps as one of the more forward things I have done in my life so far, and guide her across the wobbly bridge and the big slide. We reach the monkey bars, which will soon be our favorite feature of this playground, but we don’t know that yet. Using one of the poles, she climbs up and reaches her arms out towards the first bar, where she jumps and wraps both her hands around it. I look at our mothers, who are now watching us, sensing there may be a disaster that ends in a broken arm and a tantrum (which there will be, but not for another year and a half). I turn back to the girl still hanging, her arm muscles bulging. Trying to maintain my confident persona, I decide to follow her up to the bars, yet everything looks much further away than when she did it. I hesitantly reach out towards the pole and pull myself up. In the air, she hangs, her feet high above the ground. When I reach my short arms out towards the bar, I must make a leap to be able to reach it. I look over at her and she is watching me, sizing me up. I know I must impress her. I jump from the pole and go hurtling towards the bar. My hands finally wrap around the cold metal and I swing. I hear giggles coming from next to me. 

“You were really scared,” she snickers. 

“Yeah,” I respond before jumping off the bar down to the wood chips on the ground. The landing hurts my heels, and she soon follows suit. 

“See you tomorrow?” she says as she walks towards her mom. 

“Yeah,” I say once more. 

We would repeat this conversation for the next twelve years. We would repeat it when we were sitting on top of the monkey bars, daring each other to jump off, until finally our feet could touch the ground and there was no more hanging onto the bar. We would repeat it when we went to a new school together with no playground, and there was no recess, or music class, or Christmas movies, or field trips. We would repeat it when we replaced playing “Princess and Baby” with going to concerts, trips, and parties. No matter how many times we repeated it, there was always a “See you tomorrow” at the end.