The Swing, by Jessamyn Violet
Willow Park was empty when she arrived. The thin strip of orange sunlight was melting at the bottom of deep blue. She stepped over an abandoned plastic shovel and headed towards the swing set.
A strand of peaceful nostalgia resurfaced whenever she sat on a swing. Her shoes dug into the sand to kick off. She began to pump, back and forth, back and forth on the playground pendulum.
He doesn’t need to be that harsh. She pumped the swing faster. I’m not like I used to be. I’ve shifted.
Something dark flew low, making a strange noise. She wondered whether she was afraid. Her heart was so used to being in a state of fear that it was hard to tell.
I’m stuck in a box. His box. I put myself here, and I must deal with it.
She pumped harder, higher. Her hair whipped in front of her eyes and then disappeared behind her. She felt reckless, like swinging could free her somehow.
She pictured him kicking doors with his work boots. Calling out her name. Calling her name again, louder. Angrier. Stomping to the cabinet. Seizing his bottle. Retreating to the sofa. Waiting for her. Because she always returned.
I always return.
Back and forth, back and forth. She was sailing high, effortlessly now. Her heart was slowly climbing in her chest, replenishing her spirit.
She remembered the first time she felt It with him. They were on the couch together after a particularly off night. He’d put his arm around her as they stared out the window at the streetlights. That was when she’d felt It. Her chest opened and translucent cords began spilling out. She couldn’t see them, but she sure could feel them. They swam like snakes through water over to his chest. She had no control over the tentacles. They were pouring out from him and entering her as well. She could feel them twisting deep around her insides.
With one single, intense look, he'd conveyed he could feel It too. It was not love. It was something darker, more powerful. Pure and consuming. Suffocating and drowning.
They’d slept tightly intertwined that night. They had slept tightly intertwined every night since.
Her legs were beginning to get sore, but she just pumped harder. She never wanted to get off the swing. She never wanted to come down.
Maybe I’ll just keep swinging forever.
A few pumps later she jumped, relishing the shock of the cool sand as she landed and crumpled forward. A moment of no air was a moment of no panic. Then she breathed and the tug returned like a stinging jellyfish slowly wrapping back around her ribcage.
One day, I will cut the cords. One day, It will not be able to find me.
She gathered herself up and headed home.
Jessamyn Violet is a drummer and writer living in Venice Beach. Originally from Massachusetts, she earned a BFA at Emerson College and then moved out west to earn an MFA in Creative Writing from California College of the Arts. She's the author of Organ Thieves, a book of poetry published by Gauss PDF. Her short stories can be found in Adelaide as well as Little Break.
Sarah Walko is a director, curator, writer and artist. She is currently the Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey. She has directed non profit arts organizations and executed independent curatorial projects for the past fifteen years. She recently co-authored a graphic memoir titled With Our Whole Broken Hearts and is working on a second book project. Her visual art exhibitions include Case Studies at Gallery Aferro, So That I Might Speak to You of Your Magnificence at the Hudson Valley College, Raising the Temperature at the Queens Museum of Art, Preternatural at the Museum of Nature in Canada, and Codex Dynamic Film Exhibition on the Manhattan Bridge Anchorage in New York. Walko is also a published author of fiction and nonfiction essays and was a recent presenter at the National Organization for Arts and Health conference and the New York City Museum Educators conference.