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There is a window in the office where I work that overlooks the playground next door. Seated at my
desk, I can look out this window and am rewarded with a most delightful view. Several times during the
day, the students at the elementary school are released to the always ready play area. Children of many
colors and sizes romp around the grounds, whooping and hollering and carrying on as children
do. I see swings flying in the air, teeter totters balancing precariously on end, big
rubber balls earning new bruises on the blacktop. In the foreground are picnic
benches under an aging oak tree, where little girls come to share secrets and little
boys sneak up from behind to steal them away.
As I sit at my desk and observe the frenzied play of these children who are working so hard at being
children, I see a small boy to my right. What catches my eye is that he is standing
in the area of the soccer goal, by himself, looking down at his shoes. He picks at his navy blue sweat jacket, pulling the
string ties back and forth through the casing. He stubs his Nike'd tennis shoe in the dirt, again, and
again, and again. I see his lips move - he seems to be talking to himself, all alone,
oblivious to the world around him. There are children at play in the background,
plenty to team up with, yet he stands idle, off to himself.
Watching him, I begin to fantasize about his melancholy. Is he an only child of working parents who are
so busy with their own lives they don't have time for him? Or is he one of several children, caught in the
stampede of family life, getting trampled on by the older children as they pass him up, and pulled down
by the younger siblings as they compete with him. Is he loved or abused? smart or slow to
learn? what does he think about when he's by himself? what are his dreams? his
fears? Is he a new child, too shy to make friends? Or is he a victim of the cruelties
of child's play?
Days of my own childhood come flooding back to me. Remembering the days when I felt as he must be
feeling now, so alone. As an adult, I can still feel that sometime hollowness. I understand these feelings
even less than I did when I was his age. I ache for this small child that has so much to learn and
experience, as much potential for pain in his future as happiness. I want to reach out to him, wrap my
arms around him and tell him that it's ok, he's not alone, that I care, as will so
many others in his life to come. I want to assure him that it's alright to feel the way
he does, but that it gets better and he must look to the good things, to learn from
his experiences. I want to give him all the answers to all the questions that no one
ever gets until they don't need to know anymore.
I find myself rising from behind my desk, mesmerized by the little form before me.
I walk towards the window, my eyes not budging from their goal. He's still plowing
the earth with the toe of his shoe, talking away to whatever has a moment to
listen. My eyes fill with tears -I can't bear this pain any more. I reach out for the window frame, leaning into it in weariness of a life hard fought, knowing of the
battle he has yet to face.
Bearing down on the boy, my eyes catch a movement to my right. Now that I am in the window, I see
the soccer team huddled up and then dispersing, the soccer ball sailing towards the goal with several pairs
of feet stampeding after it. I look once again to the Nike boy and find him bent over at the waist, hands
poised on kneecaps, anticipating. The ball swoops into him and he deftly kicks it away, while
gracefully dodging the onslaught of the buffalo teams. His teammates applaud his
skill and just when the entire picture is sinking in to my sodden brain, he looks
towards my office, at me in the window. He stops in his tracks when he sees the intruder. A moment later he winks at me, grinning. I blink in surprise and when I
have refocused, he's running off towards the school. Recess is over. I stand in the
window a few moments longer, wiping the tears from my eyes, and I smile as I
realize that in his business of living in the way that only children can do, it was he who gave comfort to me.
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