REACHING by Julia Garcia

Images by Amber Poer

Rain drizzles down the windows of the cars parked next to faded painted parking lines, muggy clouds hang lazily over. The doors to a large warehouse open with a gust of warm wind as if to escape into the cold drafty air. An overwhelming sound of children and parents comes with it, and fills the ears.

A commotion of different people becomes visible. A line leads to the register, five people deep, purchasing bracelets for their children to play in the trampoline area.

Trampolines line half of the warehouse separated by foam cover to prevent accidents or injuries. There are two areas separated by a black net—one for bouncing and tricks, another for dodgeball. A line forms to dunk a basketball while an adult with a blue shirt supervises the children jumping, who absorb themselves into play. A woman on the sidelines clenches her leather jacket—her husband sets his hand gently on her back for comfort as they watch their daughter jump and bounce with anticipation and excitement.

Suddenly over the intercom, a girl with a blue shirt told “those with the green bracelet now have to exit the area,” and another rotation of children comes in and out, able to jump without the area getting over crowded. Green-bracelet kids empty the area, slip their shoes on, laces loose, and head to their parent’s arms.

“Can the kids for the Steven and Braxton birthday party please come to the party area to sing Happy Birthday?” announces one woman with a blue shirt. A crowd runs upstairs to a room overlooking the whole warehouse—white walls, wood balcony, a long table in the center of the room with plastic metallic fountains as the center piece. A table with a blue plastic cover sits against the wall with five plastic jugs full of soda: Dr. Pepper, Sprite, Root Beer, Pepsi, and Orange.

The children surround the twins with candle-lit cupcakes as they begin:

“Happy birthday to you…”

Once the candles are extinguished, children fill their faces with the vanilla cakes as they hurry back to jump, crumbs falling from the crease of their lips-wasting no time to get back. Stomachaches are the furthest thought from their mind.

A pit filled with soft foam blocks stands to the right of the two areas. A boy of maybe ten years old front flips into the abyss as another girl touches her toes on her way down. A rope ladder like those that you see at the fair in games, reaches across the pit to challenge any child to touch the other side.

A little girl, six years old with red curly locks in a ponytail wearing black leggings and a Hello Kitty shirt, uses her knee to pull herself up while a guy in a blue shirt holds his knee’s on the end of the ladder to keep the little girl balanced because her weight is too light. Almost there—and her knees fall. As her fragile arms hang, she reaches up as if to go across like monkey bars, but her strength can only sustain so much and she falls in the abyss of the pit.

She climbs out and stands in line once again.