The small square entryway at the side of the house was painted green, the plain cement visible where the paint had been chipped. It had but two steps. It was here that I would sit and play for what seemed—what is time to a child of six years?—like hours. Despite an ample backyard and a front porch I chose a place where my play would be interrupted by the coming and going of family members; an area where I could still track the presence of others. Did I know then that I wanted to be interrupted? To be noticed? I cannot recall.
Out of a stained and tattered beige tote bag I would pull out a couple of dozen green plastic army-men figurines and six or seven plastic dinosaurs. The presence of a King Kong and dragon figurine was, at times, a perturbation that I managed by leaving them behind in the bag. I needed the world that I created to be just so: a clash between humanity and the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic world of dinosaurs and reptiles. The anachronism of men was an allowance I could bear, the presence of two mythical creatures invented by men was somehow a blight on this world. There were already too many blights in my world.
I would begin by setting up the battle scene, positioning all the toys in whatever way was satisfying to me that day. I hated the army-men, all but the ones who were crawling on their belly. If there were to be any survivors it was them who would be the beneficiaries of my grace. Perhaps it is because they knew to supplicate themselves. Perhaps I simply enjoyed the design aesthetic. That too I cannot recall.
The result of the battle was always a forgone conclusion: dinosaurs would triumph over humankind and I would feel as though somehow I had won. And yet I recall being completely present in my play, somehow willing a suspension of disbelief to a script that I had already written.
As enthralled as I was in my fantasy world I, like a dog who raises one ear when it appears to be napping, was vigilant to whatever voices I heard emerging from the house.
“Where is P.?”
“He is playing outside.”
There was never negligence as it related to my physical well-being. This must have counted—it must still count—for something.
At the end of the battle I would take stock of the battlegrounds, surveying the casualties: the men knocked over dead, the few dinosaurs who sacrificed their lives to my cause collapsed on their sides. Among the triumphant was always the T. Rex. Even in play it would have shattered my heart to see him dead. I needed him—my avatar, my earthly defender—to live and breath.
Were I able to lose myself in this sort of play nearly forty-five years later I do not believe I would change the script much. And in that fact I find both comfort and disappointment.