The Light at the End of the Tunnel
The purple spiral tunnel slide taunts her, its circular mouth open and inviting, ready to swallow her into twisting and turning darkness. She spends the better part of an hour up there, watching the kids disappear into the long tube, leaving behind only gleeful squeals and laughter. She peers into the slide and sees only the dark. She shouts into the slide and delights at the sound of her voice reverberating through the tunnel. She sticks her head into the opening, quickly withdrawing it, breathless. This dance between paralyzing anxiety and curiosity continues as I climb the structure and make my way toward her. I arrive at the top. She is surprised to see me. Stuffing myself into the small compartment, I spread my legs out into the mouth of the tunnel. She watches as they disappear. I thump my seemingly nonexistent legs against the slide. She smiles with relief. She sits down behind me. I am the engine, she, the caboose. We move ever so slightly into the dark. She panics and grabs the side of the opening. Gently tugging on her free hand, I pull her down into the darkness with me. In that instant before the light goes away, her fear transforms into pure joy. Down, down, down. Together. We emerge into the light. We celebrate. She leaves me at the bottom while she scampers to the top, eager to practice her new accomplishment. And we celebrate each time she reaches the light. Again and again and again.