She had always been a runner.
In her dirty bare feet,
before she knew what it felt like to step on briars,
she ran through the park to the slide.
The thing was too high to be safe,
but not high enough to keep her off.
They told her she was always afraid.
Even from the time she could crawl.
But she was never afraid enough,
not of that slide.
She should’ve fallen off a hundred times –
she knew that.
When she was at the top,
she would let herself imagine for a moment:
to jump, to slip, from that impossible height
and her stomach would disappear,
a million miniscule needles would prickle up her arms,
shivers up her spine and tingling behind her eyes.
She wouldn’t admit it,
but she liked that feeling.
Being afraid of everything was hard work.
Sometimes, letting the fear become her was easier.
She never jumped, though.
She considered it, but she never did.
Considering and doing are two infinitely different things.
Everyone considers everything,
and that makes them normal.
You only become a problem when you do it.
That is when someone has to pay attention.
So she only slid down.
She would pretend she was breaking some divinely instituted rule –
sliding down the death trap of a slide,
in the ancient park with the ancient merry-go-round
(the one amusement that she was afraid of
but that is another poem altogether).
It was her one freedom from herself.
Years later, she was still a runner.
Running from the danger
even as she hurled herself into it.
And when someone was there to catch her in either direction,
she would love the person.
It was her nature,
to become the crash she was destined for,
and to love the one caught in the middle.
But she was different, somehow.
She didn’t take off her socks in the grass anymore
(at least not when anyone was watching).
She knew the briars were there
and only let certain people see them scrape up her feet.
So she wasn’t sure:
sure if the people who got caught wanted to see her bloody feet,
if they wanted to run with her,
or if they only meant to catch the frenzied girl
in her own speed trap.
Most had proven themselves only as police.
It is why she pretended the rules had meant something.
And years later, she sits atop the rickety slide
contemplating the uneasiness of man-made structures.
Children shouldn’t be allowed to play on broken things.
And yet she perches there,
daring the metal to twist beneath her,
throw her off into something more tangible than conjecture.
When she contemplates jumping,
she thinks about flying
and it is all too perfect to trust.
So she slides instead,
because it is what she has always done.
And when she reaches the ground she keeps running,
because someone might stop her yet,
and she hates that,
and it is all she can think about.