Running stark naked through the sprinklers in the biggest public park in town was not part of the plan for the evening. It is not a terribly wise thing to do, even in the dark, and if we had been informed that this would be the capstone of the night, we would have rolled our eyes. Responsible, reasonable girls, despite a history of skinny dipping in the mountains, simply didn’t do such things.
And yet, there we found ourselves, naked in the moonlight, the stars sparkling overhead, the cool breeze of late summer raising thousands of tiny bumps on our skin.
“I needed this,” my best friend said, standing in the shadow of a tree in case a car drove by along the street.
Our clothes were a jumbled pile at her feet. Behind her the sprinklers sprayed the open section of park. Outside the safety of the trees the grass was brightly lit by the streetlamps and the moon. My eyes scanned the walkway around the park for anyone lurking about. All was clear.
I looked back at my friend’s face. Her eyes were huge and a grin lit up her cheeks which had grown boney over the last few months. I’d forgotten what her smile looked like, what it was like to laugh together and get lost in the jungle of friendship. I grinned back.
My heart was pounding, cold water running off my hair and down my back. Goosebumps covered my arms, a shiver raced up my spine. The grass between my toes was soft, a damp carpet tickling the bottoms of my feet. The butterflies in my stomach were dancing, gleeful and anxious all in one flap of their wings.
We were alive. Truly and undoubtedly alive.
“One more time?” I asked.
I suppose there were a lot of events that led to us being in those sprinklers that night. The love of skinny dipping was really just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath that was a whole world of emotions, frozen and waiting to crash upon an unsuspecting boat, against some rocky shore. Boyfriends and breakups, deaths and funerals, ending chapters and beginning new ones had weighed heavily upon our shoulders. For a time, I had worried that I would lose her, that she would slip away as quickly and unexpectedly as my cousin had some three months before. That fear had kept me by her side for weeks, helping her to find her smile again.
And we had found it.
“One more time,” she said.
We sprinted out from behind the trees and into the openness of the park, racing into the water shooting into the air. The icy jets hit our bodies, pulling shrieks from our throats, bubbling up laughter and washing away the mud our tears had cast upon us while we’d wallowed in our pits of grief.
We were free, at least for those moments. And true freedom was coming. I could feel it.