“Let’s go somewhere,” said B., one of my best friends, after showing up in my room in Hollis. We were supposed to be studying for our Ec10 final, but we blew it off and climbed down the fire escape through the bathroom window—not because it was necessary, but because we could—out of the Yard, into the Square.
I was uncertain, that spring, about what the end of freshman year would mean and what it would bring. A few weeks earlier, we’d been quadded, a mob of 20 upperclassmen from Cabot invading our entryway to celebrate this rite of passage. But I was still holding on to the centrality of the Yard, the comfort of being labeled as new, and the familiarity of it all.
B. and I walked out Johnston Gate and crossed over to Garden Street—a walk, we joked, we would become well-acquainted with in the coming year. But we didn’t make it to the Quad this time. We ended up at the park in the middle of Cambridge Common, and pushed open the gate into its playground.
Away from the chaos of screaming toddlers, we found two abandoned swings and sat down, pushing ourselves faster and higher off the ground.
I thought of my first memory of getting to know B. We had decided to go on a run. It was our first week on campus, still in that introductory phase where you’d only just learned everyone’s names—we’d turned to each other during a rare hour of downtime between orientation activities. As soon as we’d gone outside, it started to rain, but kept going anyway, through the Yard and then down to the River, crossing back and forth over its bridges. Since then, I’d considered her one of my best.
That day in May, our conversation was still uninhibited by our motion. We were nowhere, doing nothing: I focused on my rhythmic rise and return to the woodchips, each time anticipating the lurch in my stomach right before the dive back down.
It was the expectation of that rush during free fall, knowing that you could defy danger, that in just another second you’d be meters off the ground once more—it was that expectation, I think, that kept us there for over an hour, just swinging.
Grounded in mid-air, we knew that all else fell short to our view of a horizon that moved with us, the heights we reached only for seconds, the creaking sound of a playground swing.