Robin kicked his legs, determined to swing higher than his friend. He started to sway side-to-side, the chains twisting as he struggled.
Jasper was already soaring through the air. If he just reached out his hand, he could touch the sky. Then he was falling back down.
“How do you swing so high?” Robin squealed.
“I just… put my legs out… when I’m going forward,” he said as he went by. “And pull them in… when I go back.”
“That’s what I do!”
“Then just keep going.”
When they got bored of swinging, they jumped off into the sawdust, and raced to the slides. Then the monkey bars, the merry-go-round, and everything else in the park. They went there every day they could after school. Even when it rained, they were jumping in puddles.
It wasn’t until the sun started to set that they collapsed on the ground. Their little hearts beat quickly in their chests as they caught their breath.
“You’re the best swinger ever,” Robin stated firmly. “In the whole word!”
He sat up. “Mhm. When we grow up, I’m going to marry you.”
Jasper giggled. “‘Cause I’m the best swinger?”
“Well, you’re the fastest racer, so I’m going to marry you, too.”
When they got too old for the toys, they still met up there to walk to school together. When they were old enough to go out after dark, they laid in the grass when they were too tired to walk. If one of them didn’t want to go home quite yet, they sat in the swings.
Years later, it felt so much smaller than it used to. The rickety slide wasn’t as steep, the rusted merry-go-round wasn’t as fast, the tiny swings weren’t as high.
“Ah, fuck!” Jasper exclaimed, nearly dropping his slushy as he set a hand over his face.
Robin sat up with a burst of panic. Then he started laughing. “Brain freeze again?
“Every fucking time!”
“Then don’t drink it so fast,” he teased, laying back down. “You always get the biggest size, then chug it as fast as you can.”
“Then savor it, dumbass!”
“I don’t want to!”
He rolled his eyes with a smile. “So why’d you want to talk?”
“You said you wanted to talk to me. That’s why we came here,” Robin reminded.
“Oh. Oh, yeah.”
“So… I have something to tell you.”
He had never heard Jasper that nervous before. He had been with him when he panicked about grades or watched him pace and rant before a concert. This was different. It was more serious.
“I… think I’m trans… or something.”
There was a long pause. Then Robin looked at Jasper. “Wait, that’s it?”
“What do you mean— I’ve been worried about this for weeks and you say ‘that’s it’?”
He shrugged. “I don’t give a shit. I don’t know fuck about how gender works, so I can’t really say much. What’re your pronouns?”
“I think… I don’t know. I don’t want to be a guy, but not a girl, y’know?”
“Do you want me to use she? Just to see if you like it. Or they. We can use they.”
“She,” they repeated. “I don’t know. It’s better than he, but not right.”
“What about they?”
“It fits best— somewhere in between but different.”
“Okay. So they/them pronouns?”
They nodded. “Yeah. I like that.”
They sat up, taking another drink of their slushy. “You said you had somethin’ to tell me too.”
It seemed so small now. He hadn’t even told his family, but he was more worried about what Jasper would say than anyone else.
“Kinda related,” he started. “I think I’m bi.”
“Yeah. What ‘bout you?”
They thought about it for a moment. “I don’t know. Definitely don’t feel straight though.”
A few weeks later, they were back at that park. Jasper had a large slushy again and Robin was going through an entire bag of chips on his own. They sat in the swings, swaying back and forth. Neither wanted to go home yet.
“Remember doing this when we were kids?”
Robin smiled. “The best swinger in the whole wide world. I remember.”
They shifted in the seat, listening to the chains rattle. “Think I could get that high again?”
“With or without breaking it? I can feel it starting to give out from under me.”
“I bet I can do it without breaking.”
“‘Cause you’re the best swinger?”
“I’ll marry you right on the spot if you can get parallel with the top bar.” He pointed up to where the chains met the metal. “‘Cause you’re the best swinger an’ all. And you know I’m the best runner.”
“You broke one record for our school—”
“It’s better than you!”
They laughed. “You know what, you’re right. You are the best runner, out of us.”
Jasper got up to set their slushy out of the way, then dropped back into the seat. They backed up as far as they could, then pushed off the ground. The entire swing set rattled.
“You’re going to break it!”
“And?” they called back, already gaining height.
He watched them in silence, eating his chips.
“I’m gonna miss you, you know that?” he said.
Jasper looked at him, though he struggled to hold his gaze. “I’ll miss you too. But we’ll both come back, right?”
Robin was attending a college several states away, and Jasper was moving a few hours away for an apprenticeship.
“Swings and roundabouts, y’know?” he chirped.
“Means it’ll come back around. We’ll come back and meet again.”
They grinned. “Robin, that’s not what that means.”
“What? Does to!”
“It means there’s the same pros and cons, or gains or losses.”
“Wha— are you sure?”
“I am very sure.”
“Whatever. I’ll be back.”
“Good, I’ll need you.”
Jasper never got parallel to the top of the swing, but they came close. When they were just about to reach the top, they jumped off the swing.
“Jasper!” Robin yelled as they stumbled then crashed into the sawdust.
They rolled onto their back, laughing. “Bring me my slushy!”
“Manners,” he snapped back, despite already walking over to it.
“Bring me my slushy, please.”
“Better.” He took a drink before handing it to them.
They sat up to finish it off, then tossed it towards the trash can by the swings. It hit the lid and bounced off.
“Shut up, you couldn’t make it either.”
They both laid down in the sawdust. The only sound was the crinkle of a bag and the crunching of chips. Robin stared up at the sky, lost in thought, but Jasper kept turning to look at him.
They had been friends since they were kids. They still lived in the same homes right next to each other, and just across the street from the park. There were no secrets, no lies. When they fought, they worked it out. Jasper relied on Robin for so much, and he relied on them in return. They loved each other.
“Y’know, I love you, man,” Jasper said.
“Love you, too.”
They swallowed hard. Their heart started to pick up. “I mean it. I love you. I think… I’ve loved you for a while now. I just… I want you to know before we leave. I’ve had these feelings for so long and… I want you to know.”
They huffed out a laugh. “Yeah, deadass.”
He pushed himself up, a bewildered look in his eyes. “I’ve had a crush on you since middle school.”
“Yeah, I just didn’t think you’d feel the same. I thought you liked being just friends.”
Neither of them spoke. Then Robin asked, “Do you want to be my partner?”
“Like in crime or cowboy? Or dating.”
“I meant dating, but crimes are cool.”
“Do you want to be my boyfriend?”
“I’d like that.”
Years had come to pass since then. Jasper went into instrument repair, then later into music education. Robin has pursued a degree in English and teaching, and started a job as an English teacher at his old high school. The two worked in the same school together, which often led to them breaking into each other’s classrooms to move or steal things.
Now they stood outside the park, their hands joined together as they spoke their wedding vows beneath an arch of white roses.
Jasper leaned closer to him and smiled. “It all comes back here, doesn’t it?”
“It does, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”