Every Tuesday around noon, I return home to grab a meal and retreat into my thoughts before returning to class. It also happens that at noon the children of PS 135 descend on the playground outside my window.
I never get the retreat I’m hoping for.
From my perch at my kitchen table, my window is a frame. There is no need for television during lunchtime. The children provide the entertainment. There is every ingredient for compelling drama in the fifth grade: love, heartbreak, jealousy and anger.
They burst from the school doors as though someone has just split open a bag of coffee beans that is straining under the weight of its load.
The proctor, enlisted in an attempt to bring order, unlocks the padlock barring the children from their sanctuary. He wipes the rust and sweat from the lock on his trousers and the steady stream that built up behind him bursts once more into the yard.
The pigeons that pick at the puddles and candy wrappers from yesterday´s melee launch to the rooftops. Their foraging is stolen away by screams and trampling feet.
The playground is designed for freedom; inside there is space for running, climbing and half of a basketball court. From the outside, the tall black gates block the lot off like a prison yard.
The girls with fluorescent beads in their hair retreat to the fence behind the sole play structure outside my window. Here, I am privy to all their secrets. They bicker over boys, share headphones and flop about to the beat of their iPods.
A lost basketball strays from the court. It rolls into the girls’ forbidden territory. The boys all point to one of their own. A scout is sacrificed to rescue the ball.
The boy keeps his gaze directed at the ball, never straying to eyes. The girls tower over him; their young bodies have matured much quicker than his, giving them a natural advantage. They could eat him alive if they wanted.