Wrap You In My Arms
She carefully folds her shorts and puts them in the chair at the end of the bed, followed by her t-shirt, and finally a pair of socks tucked neatly into her shoes and placed under the chair… it’s all ready, night has come.
She goes through the same routine each night before she goes to sleep, no one notices. She’s meticulous about the order of the clothes… everything is turned the right way to save time when she throws off her pajamas and slips into her clothes for her eminent nighttime run.
During the day, she runs and plays and jumps and swings and laughs aloud at all the discoveries she makes in the vacant field next to her house. She climbs around the empty well and tries to imagine her grandmother and her great-aunts playing there when they were her age. She can see them with her, playing hide and seek… she hangs on to the edge of the dried up well as long as possible — she is the best hider.
Some days, she rides her bike into town and gets a root beer at the diner. They bring it to her in a frozen mug and it tastes so good, a frozen mug filled with root beer on a hot summer day. They always tell her, “…it’s on the house”, and she doesn’t know exactly what that means except that she never pays for it. They give her straws and let her fill the containers around the mostly empty tables, when she’s done she smiles her crooked smile and gets back on her bike in the sweltering heat.
Other days, she walks down to the drive-in and wanders around the vast, empty parking lot. The poles holding the speakers sticking out of the ground look so lonely during the day… silent, they wait patiently for the night to fall so they will be called into action. Filling cars with the sounds of far off places and scary dreams. She only comes there during the day… never at night. The manager always offers her the stale left over popcorn from the night before — it tastes wonderful and once again, her crooked smile surfaces.
When dusk falls, she sits outside and watches the bats dart around the sky, catching moths and beetles and swooping down so close to her head that she throws her arms up with laughter and fear… all rolled up together. The adults laugh and talk and share stories while sipping slowly from those glasses inscribed with “The Pussy Cat”. She waits for the best opportunity and sneaks a sip while no one is looking but it always tastes the same — bitter and hot, despite all the ice in the glass and she spits it out, each time she spits it out — they must not know about her frosted mug root beers, they are so much better.
Soon, everyone leaves and she starts her nightly routine. She stays awake as long as possible because she’s scared of the night, scared of the possibility that this will be the night that the health of her aging grandparents will jerk her awake and force her into action — but she has a plan.
Her clothes folded and ready, her socks placed in her shoes to save time. She’s fast, the fastest runner in her whole grade. She has a plan. If something happens during the night, when everyone is asleep and all the world is waiting for the morning light to wash away the frights of the darkened sky… she can run for help. She can run down the hill to her aunt’s house and bring back help in time… in time to avert whatever crisis she has imagined that will only happen at night, never in the day. So she lies there, in her bed, the windows open. She smells the cool summer breeze, she hears the chirping of the tree frogs, she sees the distant light of the movie screen. She listens to the coughing and gagging, to the rustling of medicine bottles… and she waits for a crisis she hopes will never come.
In the morning, she sits up and rubs her blurry eyes, focusing on the chair… her clothes still neatly folded. It’s a relief to see them, to know she didn’t have to prove how fast she runs. Another night without a crisis… summer will end soon.
She gets dressed and walks to the field next door, today’s adventure awaits to wrap her in its arms.