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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Estrada

The Same Spinning Wheel


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“It’s really dark outside.”

 

“Yeah.” 

 

“Maybe we can go the playground.”

 

“I guess.” 

 

Lauren sat on a bench in silence. Her boyfriend Connor was next to her, but she preferred to be alone. She stared at the empty playground ahead of her and watched the metal swings sway in its own melody.

 

The chain handles screamed in her ears, and she winced as she bit her bottom lip by accident.

 

The ballads of crickets was quieter tonight. The streetlights were flickering sporadically. The wind continued howling into the trees as they swayed.

 

Lauren watched the hairs of her arms spring alongside a sea of goosebumps. She preferred to watch her hands form cracks within her skin and feel her palms become numb as her hands formed fists. She preferred to shiver like a suffering child in a cold cradle and watch her blood escape her open wounds.

 

Anything is better than having to look at him.

 

His presence made her stomach churn. His hazel eyes incinerated her skin. His citrus cologne continued robbing her nose of oxygen. His touch shocked her bones into a state of paralysis.  

 

“You know, I saw two cats fighting last night,” his voice sounded like scraping chalkboard. “It was a gray cat and a black cat. They were really going at it.”

 

Lauren focused on the holes of her pants. She watched the ripped shards expand as her fingers began pulling on the loose strings holding the stitched patches together.

 

“Oh really?” Lauren asked. “Why do you think they were fighting?”

 

Connor shrugged.

 

“Who knows?” he said. “Maybe they were fighting for food or something.”

 

Lauren continued to pull on the strings of her blue jeans.

 

“I’m sure the cat had a good reason to be upset.”

 

“Maybe,” he replied. “I thought they were going to go at it forever.”

 

“Maybe those cats are enemies.”

 

“Those two cats would always be together every time I see them,” he said. “I would never see those two cats with anyone else, they would only be with each other. They kiss a lot and cuddle together under the playground tower; they need to get a room.”

 

“They must’ve had a lovers quarrel.”

 

“Kind of.”

 

Lauren sighed and looked up at the playground in front of her. She could hear the cheers of children and the drums of their rubber sneakers inside the structure as they would ride down the slide that was once redder than cherries.

 

She would always ride down with Connor behind her as his arms wrapped around her neck and his legs hugged her waist.

 

The rocks on the playground wall were worn out from sweaty palms, but they would always feel warm when Connor’s hands would intertwine with hers to tell her she wasn’t alone and didn’t have to be scared of how high it was.

 

Lauren fought the urge to smile.

 

“Did they ever stop fighting?” she asked.

 

“They did,” he said. “The gray cat disappeared, and the black cat saw a ginger cat on the spinning wheel.”

 

“The same wheel we ride on?”

 

“The same one.”

 

Lauren’s lips formed a thin line.

 

She met Connor on the spinning wheel when they were four years old. She had been crying because other children took her bag of apple slices without her permission. They called her a crybaby and strolled away with open mouths filled with apple pieces.

 

Connor approached her and held out his bag of fruit slices, it contained grapefruits.

 

She shared the bag with Connor and they both started spinning on the wheel with screams and giddiness.

 

Lauren started eating slices of grapefruits and playing with Connor every day. Even if the taste made her squint her eyes and grit her teeth, she loved that he loved eating with her, and she kept eating.

 

The same wheel was where they had their first date. The same wheel was where he asked her to be his girlfriend eleven years later. The same wheel was where he told her she was his forever.

 

But it was different now.

 

“Did the black cat fight the ginger one?”

 

“No.”

 

“What did the black cat do?”

 

There was a pause. She could hear him clear his throat and shift his position on the bench. His breath was shallow, but it echoed in Lauren’s ears.

 

“Connor,” her voice was firm. “What did the black cat do?”

 

Connor shifted again and his sigh became even deeper.

 

“He started kissing her.”

 

Lauren felt her face become warm. Her heart began to pound through her ears, and her eyes began to sting as she stood up and pushed him until his back smacked the bench. She watched his eyes wince as he released a groan.

 

“Why would the black cat do that?” She demanded. “Why?”

 

“Because he was an idiot,” he cried. “He messed up because he thought he lost the gray cat. He didn’t want to think about losing her, so he made out with the ginger cat.”

 

Lauren watched his rapid breaths with blurry eyes and soaked cheeks. The wind and blisters forming on her fingers no longer phased her. She bit her lip until she could taste the damage. She leaned over him. He hugged his knees to his chest.

 

“What about the gray cat?” She asked. “What happened to her?”

 

“She came back,” he said. “The black cat left the ginger cat because he realized that he could never love anyone else. They stayed together.”

 

Lauren nodded slowly.

 

“The black cat must be lucky.”

 

Connor stared at her with plump lips quivering. His hands reached for Lauren’s and his fingers intertwined with hers. Lauren kept her eyes on him with the same expression.

 

“Will I be lucky too?

 

Lauren watched every part of the playground begin to wither. She would see the paint start to chip, the cracks on the plastic, the dirt on the woodchip surfaces, and she would always come back to the same playground. The playground would have her come home with many scraped knees, black bruises, and broken bones; but she would always come back.

 

Lauren looked at her intertwined hand. She wasn’t four years old anymore, and knew she had to stop wasting time. She would rather suck on grapefruits than the shrill air of a playground that tasted like sweat drops and fake bliss. She released Connor’s hand and took a step back.

 

“Goodbye, Connor.”

 

The sounds of their laughs diminished with the howling wind. The feeling of his lips were wiped with the sleeve of her sweater. His smell was replaced with the salted tears streaming down her cheeks.

 

She walked away, and she left her heart on that same spinning wheel.

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