Held Back

The children are playing games that we will never understand. Nobody's hiding and nobody's seeking. And over in a shady corner of the field there's a stockpile of toy guns gathering dust. The jungle gym is vacant and the swings are swaying in the breeze. No rope jumping or hop scotching. Nobody is 'it'...and they're not choosing sides. They don't know they're breaking the rules. Their laughter is all they know.

The adults are concerned with their behavior, yelling instructions from an area they don't realize has been marked as out of bounds -- kept at bay by a chain-linked fence. The children pay them no mind. They dance and weave their way through a land of kind-hearted mischief. Holding hands and singing made up songs, with words that can not be translated beyond their safe border. Casting a spell against the weight of the world. Squeezing every second out of the day.

It doesn't take long for a darkly clad fellow to show up with a set of bolt cutters. Slicing away at the day...bringing all this merrymaking to a sudden halt. Strangers with ill-conceived schemes are lurking about. The playground has become overrun with whistle-blowing matrons. It's time to run along home -- if you know what's good for you.

The song comes to an end. But you never did get the tune out of your head.

Browsing through an old collection of LPs. Vinyl memories that rush by in a dizzying array of leather clad poses. All those Saturday night forays into wild-eyed discovery. Never realizing how carefully you kept the places of your life warm. Feeling no particular need to attend to whatever set of horrifying duties are calling for your attention. The bills will get paid. The laundry will get done. The television has earned a night off. You've got gas in the rusting pickup parked out back and the jacket might be a little tight but you're on a head-on collision with time and you'll something to help absorb the impact.

Feel the engine turn as you pop in a randomly chosen cassette from the carelessly thrown collection on the dash. Surprised that it still sounds so good. One thing they've never seemed to master in this age of technological advance...how to recreate that perfectly worn feel. But we all know how hard they try. Doing their best to sell our past back to us. Re-packaged with rewritten liner notes. Testing how far that wool can be pulled. Cashing in on something they'll never understand. Can't blame them really. Just doing their job.

Pulling one hand off the wheel and reaching into your jacket pocket. Feeling the crumpled wrapper of an old pack of Chesterfields. Popping one into your mouth and smashing down that cigarette lighter. Waiting for it to pop as you weave through the back roads of your youth. Yeah, save those warning signs for somebody who hasn't traveled these parts. A thousand times. Taking that hair-pin curve for all its worth and gunning it in one of those perfect 'all-clear' realizations. Firing up as you head into the wide expanse of an empty lane. Remembering the words of your Grandfather...smoke 'em if you got 'em.

And for the first time in a long time you're speeding down a path with no sense of escape. You're just picking up where you left off a long time ago. And you wonder why you've been moving so fast all these years...rushing for destinations that always disappeared just within reach.

Humming along with the tune coming through the side door speakers. Piping in with the chorus. Just like riding a bicycle... Making a note to stop by the old five and dime to pick up a pack of baseball cards -- something to stick in the spokes of this relentless spinning wheel.

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