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Jori O’Grady

Peter Pan

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It’s at Piney Creek Hollow park. My neighborhood behind it is blacked out, behind muffled and marble grey skies and snowflakes. My door is shut, and as far as my family knows I'm asleep. Most nights it didn't matter. My dad stayed out late to drink beer at the bar. Sick of his Coors Light in the fridge at home. My mom went to bed after work. Exhausted from routine and employees going off routine. Both wouldn't go looking for me, and my siblings wouldn't rat me out. While we all craved an escape, they knew before I did, that I got myself into another cycle: after 10 pm I belonged to him.

Tonight, the snow is like hornets. It nips and stings and lands on black ice, but it put my mom to bed and kept my dad out later.

It’s after green leaves crunching in yellow and maroon. After them circling south with the birds. It’s when they litter on yellow synthetic grass. When the trees cease to shiver and the world might as well have stopped.

There's a sign on the gazebo, hanging by a rusty chain as though it's always been common knowledge.

Closed after 11 pm.

I think of us, me wearing your Metallica t-shirt, puffing Os from a badly rolled joint or a Tiger Blood infused vape.

Then: the police didn't find us claiming insomnia with dilated pupils.

Then: we still laughed at the big slide cause it looked like an elbow noodle or a curved dick. (peach colored with a triangle tip)

Then: our bodies and stale breaths still fogged up his car.

Then: he didn't need a swig of booze to keep himself warm.

In the darkness, this park wasn't my childhood. In the darkness, in those nights, we weren't innocent. It was our park at least until it became his:

Where his gasoline Volkswagen fumes and skid marks reminded me in daylight that in many ways, my childhood park was now my gravestone.


That summer we were George and Emily Gibbs. Both running into the mist of the creek and as the sun set, the crickets were still harmonious. We sat on the hood of his car and watched the sun skid glowing yellow on pink tinted clouds. With his arm around me, the sun captured us as it fell into the mountains.

Remember: he told you this was practice

It’s Our Town callbacks. I’m fourteen. My eyes are beady and my legs shake as I hold the script. I read Emily Webb with a stutter. He reads George Gibbs and holds my leg to stop it shaking.

“You’re thinking too much. Just practice.”

It’s Our Town callbacks. He’s seventeen. His eyes hold a steady gaze with mine, and there’s a hint tone of boredom in his voice.

The director kept us to read another scene, so when the cast list is posted, we’re on top of the list.

It’s first read through and I'm still stuttering Emily Webb’s lines.

Then: it's the thought of one stage kiss that made me queasy.

Remember: backstage he told me to not be nervous.

Remember: we’ll practice.

Then: under incandescent stage lights, we could pretend we meant something to each other. Through rosy cheeks, and oil makeup, the script allowed us to fall in love.

Heliotropes and becoming his favorite. In the dressing room, mirror lights were our helios. Stars and ambition in our eyes even if it was just a community theatre. He said: he wouldn't pick the lilacs or lilies.

We admitted attraction like George and Emily watching each other walk home from school. He’d try to wave to me when I was on the light rail as he drove home. And like Emily, I always found him backstage underneath the cage and the ladder that we used as the staircase.

Rehearsals were like sleepwalking. Sometimes I’d get off the Light Rail and I wouldn’t be able to quite see the street I walked down. Sometimes while running lines, I wouldn't quite hear everything that was said to me. Every nerve ending seemed to flutter inside me: my legs were jelly, my fingers shook, and my chest ached. It was a kind of craziness that felt like a fever dream on a rollercoaster.

On stage, the craziness was always amplified, but by then I had gotten decent at kissing him. A quick peck on stage and a makeout off stage.

Remember: practice.

After rehearsals, we’d hang out downtown with all the other upperclassmen in the cast. He’d hold my hand as we walked to Casa Bonita, although I found myself nervous and dissociating with the group of people.

“It’s easy. You're an actress, just act off stage and if you can't do that, here, choose your poison.”

A marijuana, lime vodka, nicotine, adderall coping mechanism.

His brown eyes and soft lips and hushed voice liked me better with marijuana filled lungs or alcohol fraught blood. Intoxication allowed his brown eyes to dilate instead of reveal, and it kept his voice hushed, and his lips smooth, instead of cracked.

So with our rolled joints and vapor, we walked to the light rail station. Downtown dissolved in emerald.

It was the same first buzzed night when I couldn't recognize my own fingers that laced with his when he said that theatre and musicals where are all made up that love isn't real. And I only nodded because people don't fall in love in a three-minute love ballad.

Remember: he said he’ll sing if I wanted him to.

Remember: Mrs. Gibbs said people are meant to go through life two by two.

Remember: “Tain’t natural to be lonesome.”

She was right: he was never lonesome if he had a bit of poison. It’s like makeup and lighting for the stage. Makes it all the more believable.

The closing night our poison was Adderall for focus and a bit of nicotine for a little buzz and shot of lime vodka for good luck.

I was naïve Emily Webb, on stage, marrying my George Gibbs. With a knotted twisted stomach, I kept swallowing the butterflies. Protagonists quenching under burning incandescent lights. On stage we were swallowed up and were something in this world because backstage we weren’t anything but a word to each other, fooling our ring fingers. On stage, we found satisfaction for the first time.

Closed Curtain

I’ll come back to the Piney Creek park with the kids I babysit. Hoping that in their minds, this park belongs to them, as they play “Red-hot Lava Monster.” They won't notice the skid marks or our initials etched in the dick slide.


I’ll watch a movie with them where the character says no, but you can't say no after. Not after hours, days, weeks, months, years.

J+C etched

Cause I’ll say yes then. In the backseat of his 2004 Volkswagen.

Remember: I wanted it.

It’s when the summer dismantled. It’s when skies are still blue, but the wind wisps and pulls my hair. I’m in the passenger seat of his Silver 2004 Volkswagen. He’s got one hand on the steering wheel the other holding a vape mod, trading off with me.

It’s dismantling The Piney Creek Park. We’re sitting in his car with our seats reclined. My hand tangles his curls. His hands outstretched.

By then he was pinching a joint between his fingers. Puffing smoke into my face. Beckoning me. Refusing to be refused.

The trees were caving in. The creek shifted swayed like it was preparing.

The ripples welcomed me

He said: “Do you ever feel like you have nothing?”

His voice shook, said he wanted to be dead. Said he tried four times. Said I was saving him.

It’s in the back seat of 2004 Volkswagen

It’s infatuation by the faux leather seats and “Little Piece of Heaven.”

It’s animal-like love with raw pretzeled bodies and knuckles clenching white

We were: hungry wolves, satisfied by papercuts.

Tain’t natural to be lonesome

It’s me taking a breath and pretending the fog and smoke wasn't artificial.

“Do you ever feel like you have nothing”

I exhaled till there's almost nothing left.

I nodded and paled beneath his blotchy skin.

I pretended it wasn’t artificial.

We were: stale rehearsed breaths landing on patchwork corners. We were slowing. Fading into seconds. Brown fading grey eyes. Like ocean currents.

We were: on sheets of mavericks.

And I was suffocating in my efforts to body surf. But his pierced lip had always fit on mine

My knuckles clenched white around his shoulder. And he pulled me closer. A slow fade. Curling across late nights and white lies.

“Do you ever feel like you have nothing?”

I'm afraid we were only flickering.

We were: fickle.

We were: bored.

Echoing in his car.

“Do you ever feel like you have nothing”

Leaving uncertain stains.

At least it was mutual.

I closed my eyes as he drove me home.

Being with someone never felt so alone.

He drove away, as a thief.

And I took a breath.

And exhaled till there was nothing left.

“Do you ever feel like you have nothing?”

Lost Boy

When I was young I used to wish that aliens would abduct me or Peter Pan would appear in my window and take me to Neverland, so I used to wander outside when I couldn't sleep. I’d dig my feet into the grass and look at the stars.

It was a late night snowstorm on a 60-degree day. The snow was stuck to the road in slush. That night like many other nights, I stood outside, shivering and pacing waiting to see his car.

I hadn't heard from him for a month at that point, but not hearing from him became routine. He’d send me drunken texts and suicide threats when he wanted to talk to me or rather have sex. Sex was always his antidote.

It’s 1 am the snow left heavy flakes in my hair as I paced.

“I need you.”

Sent 1 hour ago.

It’s 2 am the snow forming puffs onto the grass.

“I need you.”

Sent 2 hours ago.

It’s 3 am and I'm staring at the sky. Second star to the right and straight on till morning. When I was little, I was so sure Peter Pan would take me away. With pixie dust and happy thoughts, the thought of flying and escaping to Neverland filtered through my dreams and daydreams. Reality altered in those late nights in the backseat. The more pixie dust, the more it became Neverland, but even the darlings went home.

It’s seeing him engulfed by linoleum floors and hospital lights when I knew it was time to let him go.

Overdose. Found in his car.

“Do you ever feel like you have nothing?”

He was indulgence and resistance. Neverland ran out of time, the sand sunk, the creek dried. Replaced by empty bottles and an I.V. No longer could Peter Pan help Wendy out of her nursery window because she had to grow up.

It’s grey pissed skies. I couldn't tell if the clouds were weeping or smirking that day. Outside, in the parking lot, the wind pulled my hair, strand by strand like a childhood bully. There’s a fire somewhere cackling, eating our words, scraping off the wishes into the garbage. It was the adrenalin of the end of R.E.M. sleep when you start to realize this dream isn’t your reality

It’s in the waiting room. It felt like tossing and turning in a fever dream.

Wendy Darling left a pocket of words, but not herself, because she didn’t belong in Neverland.

The pixie dust flickered off my skin. I wanted to linger, to leave a shadow blazing in his eyes Only pixie dust poison could be cradled by infatuation.

The fire dissolved. When I opened the door, lying on his bed was nothing but a lost boy.

I closed the door, and not a shadow remained.

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