We would meet by the brick wall in front of my house on sweaty summer nights, hop on our Schwinns, and ride around the block looking for dead things to poke with sticks, stray cats to pet and name, evidence of a life only found in our untamed imaginations. We wouldn’t speak much. We wouldn’t have to. Our mutual escape into a world of monsters, swords, and adventure would say more than any of the words in our childish vocabularies. We would find connection in our play.
After our mothers would call our names, we would go inside our houses and eat supper, only to return as soon as the last dish was dried. We would help each other climb trees. I would give you a boost, so that you could wrap your legs around the trunk of the sturdy young Maple in front of my house. You could reach the lowest branches then and shinny your way up to thicker branches where we would perch and pretend we were birds or super heroes or angels.
Or, maybe we would meet on my front porch and play with our Barbies, all the while giggling about breasts, kissing, and whatever else our older brothers and sisters had taught us. We would peek beneath Ken’s swim trunks at his rounded plastic mound and shift our eyes back to forth to make sure no adults were watching. We would share conspiratorial secrets about our impossible crushes on movie stars and musicians. Barbie and Ken would always somehow end up naked together on the ledge of my porch. More giggles.
I would always pick you for my Capture-the-Flag team, even if you never found the flag or ran the fastest. If you were captured and sent to the other team’s “jail,” then I would risk getting caught in order to engineer your escape and probably end up sitting next to you in “jail” where we would talk about the giant black ants scurrying across the sidewalk or the neighbors across the street in the rental house with the Husky named Pete.
We would call each other “best friends.” We would tell each other the things we wouldn’t tell anyone else, and then, we would race through the sprinkler with shrieks and laughter. I would help you rake your yard and you would help me rake mine, doing each other's chores side by side, feeling the bite of blisters together.
If I’d known you when we were children, our love would be the simplest kind. Our play would be easy. We would be capable of spending an entire afternoon melting things with a magnifying glass or standing in awe of a picked scab or playing kickball until the ball would get stuck on a garage roof.
We would discover constellations at night, point out the Big and Little Dippers and Mars and Venus, lie in the wet grass and contemplate the craters of the moon.
I wish I’d known you when we were children.