- A spider—orange heart on his round back and green spots below his eyes; sitting on the electrical box by the soccer field. Weaving, building his tunnels like he has decided to live there forever. Watching the sunset sweep past each day in the bare expanse of dirt where he is sovereign. An intricate blockade of white webs tucked into a corner, a small piece of cool shadow. All summer, just hanging on and soaking up the last bit of sun in that sliver of warm bliss between day and night. Like a little girl that was here before, when she (as well as I) thought things like spiders could live forever.
- A bright yellow door on a street with a silver balcony and vibrant wall paints like the crayon colours of a child’s drawing. The big Indian man with a hearty bark and voluminous chest splayed across his bohemian couch—his throne—always in the perpetual motion of swirling a wine glass. Around and around—the figurine inside some unconventional snow globe, a lethargic Bacchus appraising the mortals walking past his house every morning. Men in expensive cufflinks and cheap shoes, women with their bags swinging from the crook of their elbows. And kids—plastic backpacks sliding down with each gleeful skip so their little back heels kicked at the hard bottom.
- The front gate of the school with two elm trees curving in from each side; either guards or bowing servants. Their foliage so near to the last homeroom window on the right side of the fourth floor a little girl could reach out with her arm and touch a slippery green leaf, shake a branch and whisper a prayer before the test is handed out.
- The math teacher’s purple dress with embroidered white and yellow daisies—crude. Each was the size of a little girl’s palm and perfectly blooming—always.
- A dilapidated swing set on the playground when stretched to its limit had the capacity in its soul to swing back nearly ninety degrees. One boy on it had once touched the very tip of the neighbour’s lemon tree growing out of their back fence. The perfect arch of its two chains and the clatter of metal links. The laughing child against a backdrop of orange rust. Like the swinging of life in the world, from highest to lowest and then back up again—back and forth a million times. A boy can jump off when the momentum pushes him one way every half a second; could propel his body with the thin, gangly limbs and nimble movements. But he instead clings on, firmly to the predictable rhythm of the steady old chains obediently.
- A rat carcass under a box of picture books and the little girl next to it who struggled between disgust and wonder, entranced at the shrivelled up lump with four rigid little legs shooting up towards the ceiling—defiant.
- A pair of small children’s boots bloating to the rim and stuffed with bits of street chalk. Sitting in the rain, pastel pigments flow out of it on all sides and run down into rivers in the grooves of the concrete like a confluence made of rainbows.
- A pink crinkled mask with two hooked strings around the ear knotted several times until there is an uncomfortable mess of pimply nodes on each end.
- The little girl in the too big mask standing next to a purple bus, a little taller than the front wheel. In a yellow raincoat with turquoise hair and smiling. In black boots with remnants of chalk colours still clinging onto the surface—mixing ugly with dirt.
- The same purple bus on the highway, racing back.
- The imprint on a bed in a dead room, with white walls and blue covers.
- The floor of the hallway outside the waiting room. The cream marble square tiles—a path that witnesses both sides of one world or another. A road of judgement between the time shaking steps race in and past; or when she is pushed out lying down.
- A bed of actual daisies right in blossom. Each imperfect in its own maddening way of being real.
- The big elm dismembered at its limb, the adventurous branch near the classroom window dropped into the courtyard below that left the whole tree lopsided beside its brother.
- The electrical box—gleaming and disinfected after that last clean-out before school ends. No webs.
- The silence in the playground that snuffed out every squeak of the slowing swing set. Back and forth. Back and forth. Until it came to a small quiver before stopping completely—entering its annual slumber of the coming months.
- My little girl, who walked into that summer and decided to stay. In the sliver of sunset by the electric box where muddy boots were actually rainbows and all the daisies were kind enough to always bloom.
And me, who isn’t a pretty thing and does not make nor find the romance. Me, who came back out the other side of fall and held tightly to the creaky old chains of the swing—cowardly afraid to let go.
Xujia Guan is an international Chinese student studying in Canada. She is a rising senior in high school and enjoys creative writing in her free time from schoolwork and activities. Other than writing, Xujia likes listening to podcasts and being a basketball referee. She was part of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio 2022 summer camp.
Very beautiful and heartfelt I live your choices of words.