Cid Octavio Cortejo and I meet here because nobody else does. Not in the daytime. People take their kids to the park on Clinton that’s mulched at its base, from plastic slides to swings, and connected with monkey bars and floating tunnels.
Orange fencing and signs cut off this place. The fence, though five feet tall, slouches on its ties and is so easy to lift at the corner post, we decide the town doesn’t really care if we squeeze around it. They just want to make it clear we weren’t invited.
Inside, the grass grows as high as my waist. Before finding this playground, I never knew grass could grow so tall. There aren’t swings anymore, but if there were, we couldn’t use them anyway. The grass would stall us at the bottom. Cid and I drag the rusting merry-go-round through the green and jump on. The blades hiss against the platform, like they’re shushing the creaking spins.
Cid talks about things we never hear in high school. Lately he argues for the soul. “It has something to do with how we can imagine life being awesome, even when everything’s wrong, like how we hold good in our heads when there’s nothing good around us.” He selects a long grass, traps it between his thumbs, and blows a piercing note against it. “Take you. You’ve got all this shit going on, right?”
I shrug, thinking about the apartment, if I’ll still be there this time next year, and worrying about Linnie and where she goes on Saturdays. Cid knows my business, but I don’t want to talk about it. I’m at the top of the slide, letting the back of my thighs get to know the searing metal before heading down.
He picks up his thought later on the teeter-totter. “We picture perfection. How do we do that? When did we learn it? When do we ever get perfection? Never. But we have it as a concept. It’s inside us, like a bit of eternity.”
He’s put me in the air and isn’t letting me down. He thinks this is funny. But I kind of like it up here on the wooden seat, my bare legs dangling, the sun hot on my back, the clouds, just handfuls of softness, closer than usual. Not that I’d admit it. “We get perfection, Cid. Don’t you ever feel perfection?”
He looks up at me. “Well. Sometimes.”
Melissa Ostrom teaches English and lives in rural western New York with her family. Her fiction has appeared in many journals, including Lunch Ticket, Juked, Corium, and Bookends Review, and her first novel, Genesee, is forthcoming from Macmillan in the spring of 2018.