Yesterday I was eight. My cousin calls me four times in one morning. The first two are about what to name her new Webkinz. The third is to tell me -- again -- about her new Hannah Montana doll. The fourth is to ask those four words I’ve hoped for every day this hot summer, four words that would rescue me from my own boredom. “Can I come over?” I fly through the house with the landline phone in a deathgrip, bouncing in front of my mom and cheering her answer into the phone. Thirty minutes later, we take our spots on the swingset, my younger brother trailing behind us. It’s a pretty standard swing set. Blonde wood whose splinters would have to be plucked out of my roughened palms after too many trips back and forth on the monkey bars. Two swings, a trapeze bar, and a slide, all with sunflower yellow highlights. Today, it’s our castle, the swings our thrones. We start off in the sun-bleached grass, pretending to wake up in this strange kingdom that we explore and claim as our own, sticks from the willow tree serving as our weapons as we defeat the monsters lurking in my mother’s beloved hydrangeas. This world is ours, and it always will be. The monsters will never beat us. My nose is always in a book, and most of the ideas are mine. But my cousin is always the leader. She’s louder and braver, but she’s also the oldest; it’s as simple as that. I go along with whatever she says, because she’s two years older and approval from her feels like a blessing from a god. I’m always a boy when we play, free and comfortable in the baggy shorts and shirts my mom grits her teeth at. Shielded by the willow tree, no one tells me I can’t. We take a break only to raid the freezer and excavate tubs of ice cream, plopping the treasures in our bowls and letting them melt over our hands outside, not knowing that time was melting with those little puddles of chocolate fudge swirl. We play until the sun dips low, kissing the tree tops, and when my aunt and uncle pull up to the curb in their navy blue car with the middle seat belt that nearly cuts you in half, we run and hide in my room, hoping her parents will forget she’s here and then she can stay the night, stay forever. But they always find us. Summers pass. The swingset gets destroyed in a thunderstorm. The willow tree gets diseased and my parents have it cut down. We’re weaponless, defenseless, against the monsters. Now my cousin lives in Vermont, studying a science I don’t understand. She texts instead of calls. She doesn’t come home for the summer. The two worlds will never be one, and they’re not ours anymore. Now I’m twenty-three, twenty-three. But yesterday, yesterday, I was eight.
Beeper Peddle is a writer and healer living on the East Coast. She lives with her partner and their beloved soul puppy. Beeper writes about sorrows, lies, and deep loves. When you read her work, you will dip down into her heart and end up in all manner of body parts. Should you find yourself reflected in these words, it is merely coincidence; however, it does not surprise her you share the same heart. Find her at bethpeddle.com and @beeperpeddle on Twitter and Instagram
Olivia Martello lives in central New York. Her work has previously been published with Voyage and Drunk Monkeys. When she’s not working on her Master’s in English, she enjoys reading, baking, and watching excessive amounts of drag queen lip syncs.