“A beloved childhood experience, or a petri dish of germs? Public ball pits will reopen in August.” — Headline from the Boston Globe, 5/5/21

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Hey, Girl. It’s me, the ball pit. Things got weird. It’s been a minute. But can we talk?

You ghosted me, but I get why. I took you for granted. I let myself go. My bad. I was gross, I hear you. A cesspool? That’s harsh. It was kind of my thing, to be honest, and I thought we’d agreed that wasn’t a dealbreaker, but it’s 2021 now. You’re vaccinated. And I can change.

You said you needed space. Fine, yes, you said you never wanted to see me again. The thing is, I’ve done “the work.” I’ve looked inward, like in the places no one — no one — looked before. I got professional help.

We’ve both come a long way this past year, babe.

What? Which ball pit is this? No, this isn’t the one at Ikea. Chuck E. Cheese? You’re joking. How many ball pits were you seeing? I’m the one by the go-kart place. Obviously.

Hear me out. We had some good times. The way you’d take off your shoes and plunge in. You’d lie back, stretch those bare arms, and pretend to do the backstroke. You were so playful. Sometimes, a ball would tumble unexpectedly and touch your mouth.

Stop making that face.

And that time you covered everything but your eyes and took a selfie? You showed it to your friends. You can’t tell me it didn’t mean something when you put me on main.

I get it. Things are different now. But what we had was real.

You really think a nightclub or — hear me out — an indoor water park can do what I do? When you lose another foam baton gladiator fight, who’s there to catch you? I came through for your nephew’s birthday party, and when that kid barfed in the corner, did I say a word? Did the party not continue like nothing had happened because no one actually knew, and they kept jumping in? What about when you hip-checked a kid for the zipline, at your bachelorette party, and Heather said it was “inappropriate.” But me? I didn’t judge. I let you be you. Well, it’s a two-way street.

What’s a minor staph infection here and there; nobody’s perfect. There are a few bad balls in every pit.

Look, we don’t have to see other people — not all at once. We can be grown-ups about this. We can schedule. Tuesdays are good for me. Don’t say that takes the spontaneity out of it. I’m a pit full of balls; I’m literally full of surprises.

You’re making that face again.

We can use protection. Wear gloves. Wear a mask. Jumpsuits are hot right now — get a full-body NASA spacesuit.

I’ll get my balls washed. I’ll get them sprayed. I’ll get them sucked into a giant washing machine and spat back out. Whatever does it for you, I’m open. No judgment.

I get it. I do. “Hot ball summer” doesn’t have the same ring to it. But those antibodies didn’t make you an actual ninja warrior. And judging from those sweatpants, you’re not gonna be on that obstacle course for long. Let me catch you, girl.

So go on, play the field — on an actual field — with your woo-woo fresh air and personal space. But don’t forget about me. Because, girl, without you, I’m empty. Except for all these balls, of course.