JANUARY 13, 2016
A SWING SET TO REMEMBER
I remember my young legs pumping like a machine propelling the swing higher to new, unseen heights.
Each reckless pendulum bringing me closer to the top, until finally I can see over the dark, brick wall.
Over the razor wired top, past the guard locked in a stone tower, with his scoped rifle, ever ready to fire.
I swing hard enough that I can feel the swing set’s legs teetering to and fro in its crumbling, concrete emplacements. The smooth rubber seat rubbing against my skin over and over again.
I see my dad, grandma and sister sitting at the wooden picnic table, waving at me as I complete my daring feat, like little ants below.
I can see the wood is faded from the many hands that touched it, the relentless sun on its back, the pounding wind and rain on its scarred planks. Planks scratched with the names of long ago, forgotten faces.
It’s almost a picturesque, park-like setting. Except I am in the midst of the formidable Jackson Prison, where my father serves his time between each visit.
Thirty years has passed since that time and today I sit across the street from that prison, imprisoned in another prison from where my little legs tried to reach the moon.
There’s no swing set here or there anymore, but I can still hear the eerie creaking of those links, links I hold onto for dear life, just as I used to hold onto my dad at the end of our visits, not wanting to let him go. The links that bind us still today.
Today, I sit at a metal picnic table, staring past my own razor-wire fence. I stare into the same parking lot I used to skip across at the thought of seeing my father. He has been dead for almost thirty years now, but if I close my eyes really tight, I can still see him at the bottom of that swing set, waiting to catch me if ever I fall.
I’d like to think he’s still watching over me, outside the walls of Jackson Prison, where the ghost of a swing, swings silent, and grass now fills the patch where my legs could never quite reach.
//Bryan Palmer is a contributor to The Periphery.