We tumbled down the grassy slope together, sliding and rolling out of control, pulling and being pulled by our own intertwined limbs and the demands of gravity and momentum. The sun beat down on us with a dry haze that threatened to transform lush grass into harsh hay. We didn’t care. Birdsong trilled somewhere above us; a skylark protesting our intrusion here. In that moment it was just a detail to be recalled later, rather than a signpost or warning.
Over and over we rolled. Sometimes it was fast, with the shocks of our bouncing bodies forcing air from our lungs in exulted protest. At other moments our journey threatened to stop, and we consciously hauled ourselves forward to start a further burst of tumbling.
Over each other, arms locked, and legs flailing, challenging dare accepted and yet regretted. Somewhere above us our respective parents were probably either praying that we didn’t ruin our clothing or break each other’s necks. Rueful expectations of bruises and shouted promises of deprivations to come did nothing to dissuade us from our erratic downward trajectory. The threat of early bed barely registered in the face of our adrenaline rush.
Down and down, until the slope became steeper, and old molehills and the soft tussocks conspired to separate us. We bounced and rolled faster, and perhaps in that moment we remembered fear and the stone wall waiting at the bottom of the field. Topped with barbed wire and seated in churned mud that was surely mixed with sheep dung from when flocks roamed here, we hadn’t thought about it until now.
And then we stopped rolling, breathless and muddy, with scraped knees and scuffed shoes. Our shirts were smeared and ripped, and at some point we must have gone through nettles because painful blistered welts were visible on our exposed skin. The tingling pain began to filter through, but the blood racing through our veins was pounding too hard for either of us to care.
Something silvery flashed on the slope above us – and we remembered the teatray we’d started our descent on mere moments ago. It felt like years. It probably felt even longer for our parents up there at the top of Box Hill.