On the Tornado Slide

I don’t know how it happened. It was the second to last day of the summer. I was playing princess with my friend, Jordan, and she was Snow White and I was Sleeping Beauty and we were dancing and singing about the prince and how he would come and give us a kiss and how we would live happily ever after. We had done this since we were four, but we never got very tired of it…not for long, anyway. I mean, the other girls our age didn’t really play princess anymore, but we got a kick out of it because we sorta were making fun of ourselves even though we both secretly still wanted our lives to be as simple as they were back when we were really little.

We played in the town park on the metal and plastic playground that probably looked awesome for about two months after they installed it but in the years since has worn out to the point that it looks like it lost a fight with my dad’s belt sander. Jordan climbed the metal ladder of the tornado slide and I followed right after.

We sang and swayed back and forth like they do in the cartoons, reaching for that high note of Someday My Prince Will Come. Jordan and I flitted our eyes with nearly sincere happiness at the thought of the prince peeking around the hedge at any moment, running through the gritty playground sand with his arms spread out, smooching us right there on the top of the slide, and taking us up on his horse and riding off into the sunset.

And then it hit me. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to live with this guy with the puffy sleeves (I mean, really, puffy sleeves?) and the singing all the time and the smooching total strangers. And then I thought, But I always liked the prince before. Why not now?

I took a sharp breath at the thought I had right there and then.

“I’m not a kid anymore,” I said.

Jordan looked at me. “What?”

“I said, I’m not a kid anymore.”

“What?”

“I SAID I’M NOT A KID ANYMORE, SILLY!”

Jordan looked at me like I had just told her that the sky was green. “Stop yelling at me. I heard the thing about the kid. How are you not a kid anymore? Did you get boobs? Jenny Marcinko got boobs when she was ten. She thought she was swelling up from a bee sting. I don’t know if she thought she was stung twice or what. Which doesn’t make sense anyway, if you think about it, because then she would have felt the bee stinging her, but I heard that it does hurt, but my mom said you only get boobs when you’re old and even then they’re not always gonna stay around and sometimes they sag. What if you get all saggy? Wouldn’t that be weird?”

“What are you talking about?”

“What are you talking about?” Jordan replied.

“I don’t wanna live with the prince.”

“So?”

“So, I thought that if I don’t want to live with the prince then I must not really like it when a total stranger shows up and sings a goofy song and smooches me. Then I thought that I never thought that the song was goofy before, so why now? And then I thought that the prince might have been walking through the woods by himself for a reason. Maybe he’s crazy. Maybe he’s lonely. Whatever it is, I don’t want my future riding on a silly crazy guy in the woods.”

In that moment, I grew up. I suddenly got it that I belong to me.

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