You are nine, unskilled on the monkey bars, but you don’t watch the placement of your hands. Other kids scream and chase a kickball, but you are not invited; chafing velcro leaves a razed sliver of skin behind on your neck, but no matter. You like to wear this coat because your mother used to tell you that you look smart in purple.
Anyway, recess lasts twenty minutes. The whole time you hang, thinking of a slug you saw balancing on a blue tie-dye ball, of pointing out paddocked horses in plaid coats to yourself in the backseat, of a brown apple that someone left out and how it went glossy with slime four days ago. The whistle blows to line up, and then Matthew Miller’s mouth gapes open, pink and studded with his crooked white teeth. Oh, he is screaming, you realize, because you have already fallen and rolled over and exposed the new angle in your forearm. Something trickles above your eye, but it could be an ant. You can’t brush it away, so you map the way it curiously traces your eyebrow, the way it affirms the shape of you. It feels like a gentle touch, but it could be nothing.
In the car to the hospital, your mother grits her teeth while your father drives over a pothole and you say, how come you both came and your father says, getting hurt is a special occasion. He says it while he fiddles with the radio, trying to skip commercials. You laugh at his joke because that’s what you do. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? Your mother claps her hands when babies laugh at the park. She hums the ABCs. But now she wants to cry—you can see that from the way she crushes her face against the window. You hope she doesn’t. You haven’t yet figured out what to do when she does.
Later, your father signs the purple cast—fuchsia actually, he corrects—before anyone else. He draws a bunny rabbit with big teeth. It’s a joke character he sometimes sketches in the Sunday funnies margins. You hope Matthew Miller will sign your cast too, right on your wrist, where you can see the signature the easiest. Oh, but your father only makes jokes when he wants to distract you. So, you pay attention harder when the doctor hands your mother a pain prescription and she pockets it without memorizing the dosage. She says, we don’t believe in that kind of thing. She trips your father a little when you walk out the door and you are glad you know how to be in love better than them. You know how to imagine better forevers.
Anyway, the next day, you dress for school early, purple cast sliding through purple coat with barely a snag. Over cereal, your father asks if you are up early because you are sad, but you smile. He asks if you are sad and you say, no, because now the kids at school will have something to say about you. You are a story now and that makes you realer than before. Your father says, attagirl, that’s the attitude. Except, except everyone else has already seen a cast before, even a fuchsia one. You think they’re lying, but you can’t really accuse them of that without proof. Matthew Miller signs a tiny MM on your elbow, where you can’t see it without turning your arm until it hurts. Recess lasts another quiet twenty minutes. Other kids scream and chase a kickball, but you are not invited; chafing velcro leaves a razed sliver of skin behind on your neck, but no matter. You hang the whole time, even though a teacher told you not to—she won’t come find you. You think of watching pine trees dance up high in booming clouds, of the wind rustling a stained-glass chime, of ants forging trails with sandwich crumbs on their backs. Those things used to make you happy. Now you try to remember the surgery. Was there a sound when they drilled into you? You think you remember apologizing for something. You think you remember saying, it was an accident. You just wanted to check and see what would happen.
Eshani Surya is a writer from Connecticut. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in PANK, Catapult, Paper Darts, Joyland, and Literary Hub, among others. Eshani is an Assistant Flash Fiction Editor at Split Lip Magazine. She holds an MFA from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Find her on Twitter at @__eshani or at http://eshani-surya.com.