The local playground is the school child’s adventure paradise. Bark and wood-chip cover a thin layer of perpetually moist mud, recycled tyres hang from motorbike chains on a slack zip wire. Roundabouts, swings with rusted chains and bucket seats, slides and spider nets are common features, but most important of all, most sought after and revered is the obstacle course.
There’s always an age when you either pretend to be a solider, a commando, or someone escaping them. The obstacle course transforms itself into a battlefield, you split in to two opposing teams, missiles are flying on every side, your battalion commander is screaming at you :Go, Go, Go. Crawling on hands and knees, the bark digging grooves into your skin, your play-clothes streaked with mud and drops of blood, you squeeze under the wet logs, through the medium-sized Michelin wheels, up the ladder you scramble, down the cold rain slicked slide, over the open expanse, jump on the zip wire and travel across, knees clenched up to your chest, sweat streaking in little ‘S’ shaped trails down your chin, and then, only a few meters away, you get to it.
They grin at you, each bar a loose tooth, the gaps like caverns waiting to swallow you whole. A gentle mound of nature-based crash mats made up of decomposing leaves and woodchip make the earth slightly convex. “Go Go Go!” The screams tumble through your ears, your heart is racing, your fingertips itching. You breath deeply, arms swinging by bent knees, neck jutting forwards, and jump.
The cold metal slides between forefinger and thumb, your body launches forwards, you go to assail the next bar – and find your elongated feet dragging along the ground. Your arms are being ripped from their sockets. Parallel to you the enemy team are swinging to freedom, their miniature ballet-trained bodies flying nimbly through the air, whilst you, like a stretched hot dog, hang limply. The Monkey Bars: the bane of every tall child’s playground memories.
We thought they were banished to the recesses of mortification and embarrassment. The vague hopeful lie was like a beautiful sunrise that suddenly plunged into an unexpected eclipse at 7 this morning when myself and a fellow lanky friend, who had a few more inches on me, were confronted with the adult version of the monkey bar: the pull up bar.
To express the sheer awkward embarrassment that enveloped us – i do not have the words to do it justice. Suffice it to say, we dangled there, clutching on with our fingertips, the entire length of our bodies dragging in the sweaty air, feebly attempting to pull ourselves up. I think we managed to bend our elbows, but the bar was still a good half-meter above our heads.
No, though we had grown stronger and older, the monkey bar was still our ever-present enemy. It mocked and laughed at us, a cold metal cackle. We could not defeat it. We hung our long necks in social shame, one face bright red, the other blushing through the wide smile that engulfed its face.
Monkey Bars. Evil. Evil creations.