There was a tire swing tied to the lowest branch of an old oak tree. Everytime the wind blew, the branches would creak and the swing would sway.
Sometimes a girl would sit on that swing. And sometimes a boy would sat with her. He never pushed her, or put his hands on her shoulders, or even wrapped them around the frayed ropes that held the swing up. His hands always remained in his pockets, stuffed wrist deep.
But most days, that swing sat unoccupied. It would entertain the local neighborhood kids some, or would house a colony of ants when the weather got warm. One time, it was even borrowed by a hive of wasps, before it got knocked down.
The girl's visits to the swing started during one of the hottest summers on record. The neighbors would see her ride by on her blue beach cruiser, humming to herself. She would then tie the bike to the gate that opened up to the path to the swing.
The first time she came, her hair was pulled into two ponytails, which curled and frizzed due to the heat. She had heard about the swing at school, since older kids liked coming down to it at night so they could kiss and fool around.
But the girl imagined that the swing was attached to an oak tree that wasn't so old, and that was in front of this grand house with a grand porch. She imagined swinging on it in the evening and listening to the bugs hum and the frogs croak and the crickets chirp.
The next time she came, she tripped on some rocks on the path to the swing. She sat on the swing and studied her bloody knees. She imagined she had fought in a mighty war and returned home a mighty hero. She imagined the crowds cheering and handsome boys bringing her flowers.
But the next time she came, she wasn't alone. Next to her walked a boy, his hands wrist deep in his pockets. As she skipped to the swing, he shuffled his feet. She imagined him pushing her and she imagined herself laughing. She imagined him pulling her close and she imagined him kissing her for the very first time.
So when the boy kissed her, the girl thought her feet would never touch the ground, like they never did when she was on that swing.
Soon after that, the girl came less and less. Her hair lost its frizz as it grew out. She no longer imagined a grand house or being a mighty hero. She no longer imagined a boy pushing her on the swing and she no longer imagined a boy kissing her.
It was years before the girl came back to that swing. By then, the ropes had broken off on one side and the branches creaked even more. The swing was full of dirt and housed a small cluster of wild mushrooms. The local neighborhood kids didn't go near it anymore and the older kids stopped coming down.
And the girl, who was no longer a girl anymore, stood by that swing and wrapped one hand around the last good rope that still held the swing to the old oak tree. She imagined a girl; a girl full of innocence, a girl with a wild imagination, and a girl with curly and frizzy ponytails. She imagined that girl daydreaming as she sat on the swing, picturing a grand house and a mighty war, and she imagined that girl daydreaming about a boy pushing her on the swing and kissing her on the swing.
The woman smiled at the memories that the swing had given her. She smiled at the hope and the impossibility, and she smiled at the memories of love that the swing still held. She smiled that the memory of that girl and she smiled at the memory of that boy.
And for one last time, the woman walked away from that swing, leaving behind the last memory; the memory of a tire swing tied to the lowest branch of an old oak tree, while the breeze blew and the branches creaked and the swing swayed.