It’s like I’ve been standing at the top of a jungle gym with a bunch of slides, and they all led to different parts of the playground. But instead of picking one and going down it, I was just going around in a circle looking at all of them. Sometimes looking longer at some than others, but always looking. Occasionally, I would sit down at the top of a slide and get ready to slide, but back up after looking at how steep the slide is. All of the sudden, I’m starting to feel like one part of the circle is more advantageous than the rest, so I just start pacing back and forth in front of those, but never making a decision still. It’s starting to get dark outside now, and I’m going to be called to come in soon. I need to pick a slide. I start pacing more frantically. Trying to decide. Pacing, pacing, pacing, pacing. Faster, faster, faster. Need to decide. All of the sudden there is a noise from the middle of the circle. Someone is coming up the ladder! It’s a young man. Clean-shaven and put together. But upon looking closer I can see his jeans have wear and tear just like mine. His shirt is faded and has the look of extreme comfort. It knows its owner. And I think I might too. We look at each other for a moment. He’s so calm. Reassuring. I feel my ears starting to burn with embarassment. I’m almost 19 years old, standing on top of a jungle gym that I can’t decide how to get off of. Then, I find myself talking and talking and talking. Telling him everything. Because, I realize, I do know him. We’ve been best friends. Or we used to be. I quit it though because I thought I was better. I thought my new friends were the friends I really needed. But, as I’m talking I realize how good of a friend he has always been to me. Even though I only talked to him when all of my other “friends” were too busy to help me get through a dark place in the sidewalk. He always told me it was too narrow to hold my hand, so he carried me instead. I remembered the smell of his shirt. Like a warm baking shop. With a hint of cinnamon. I can remember sitting down to cry, and he would just hold me. He never got impatient. And I start to feel horrible. All this time. All this time. What a friend. And before I even say it, before a single sorry can leave my chapped, bitten lips–
“It’s okay, Britt. It’s okay.”
I sit down to cry once more. Once more. Once more. Once more, he sits down and holds me. I look up and see a path between the slides. I didn’t notice it before. It’s narrow. And I can’t see where it goes. It is dark now. I can hear Father calling me. I wasn’t listening. He must have been calling for a while. The path looks lit. Like it has its own little sun. I start to hear father better now. He’s on the path! My friend sees me looking at it.
“It’s too narrow for me to hold your hand. I’ll carry you.”