My gaze drifts absently to the bright blue balloon drifting up, up, up into the sky, swirling and twirling, dancing unabashedly with the wind. Just a few moments ago it had been held tightly in the hands of a pretty little girl in an equally pretty yellow dress. Her head had tilted slightly to the side as she took me in, big eyes full of curiosity and a hint of suspicion, and two fingers in her mouth. My smile had held as much amiability as I could muster, only for it to flatten into a grimace as her father came into my line of vision, following the girl’s gaze and looking straight through me, as was to be expected. Adults rarely

greet me with a handshake and a hug. Seizing the girl’s wrist with a bemused crinkle of his forehead, he had turned his back to me and walked off, girl in tow. He must have pulled just the slightest bit too hard, as the pretty girl’s balloon gave a sudden jerk and took its freedom without an ounce of remorse.

Perhaps it was my decision to tune out the girl’s hysterical sobbing which led me to this trance. I feel bound to watch the departure of the girl’s treasure. I hardly feel the need to fight this strange compulsion either. So I watch. Each of the people around me is otherwise engaged. I refuse to let myself blink, even. Slowly, everything else fades away. Even the vast expanse of the grey sky shrinks to the size of a neatly folded handkerchief, as the balloon does its sassy tango. Anxiety builds up inside me with every passing second, wondering if the balloon will survive, vividly picturing the dancer being extinguished by natural forces. It twirls and twirls higher and higher, and it no longer looks like a balloon.

The grey canvas re-establishes its might; my eyes recognise it as the infinite sky once again, and the child’s beloved shrinks still more. It floats farther away from me as it diminishes in size. Now it is nothing more than a speck. A tiny black dot- for the beautiful blue has faded into oblivion- amidst cement gray pillows on a charcoal grey bed. I find myself gaping inwardly as the speck becomes smaller still.

That unnamed sense which tells us when we are not physically alone makes me glance away from the speck for a second. The pretty girl’s shadow looms over my sneaker-clad feet; her face is tear stained and blotchy now; she looks straight at me, owing to my cross-legged position on the grass. The next second, her tiny flat shoes are kicking up minute dust particles as her father’s hand, now enveloping her palm, gently guides her away from my spot. The very second her eyes stray from me, I jerk mine back to the heavens. Nothing. I look again, and again, and still, the speck is nowhere to be found.

I find myself unreasonably distressed at this, and stand up with unwarranted slumped shoulders. One last look above is all I give myself before I trace the same path I take every day, brushing past thorn and scrub into the deserted clearing. One deep breath I allow myself, closing my eyes and basking in the sunlight streaming in through the dark green canopy above.  Exhaling; dull and lifeless eyes open as my back hits the grass. The bright blue balloon and the disappearing dark speck cross my mind absently once more. I shun that incomplete train of thought, and lock it in the box, with all the other unfinished stories, knowing that pursuing it will leave me more disappointed than reality and the living world has any right to. I think about the pretty girl- the girl who’d seen me, and looked me straight in the eye; my foolish heart hopes the cruel world will be kind to her. A future model, perhaps, or a successful businesswoman, making people swoon with her beauty and intellect. My eyelids flutter shut. Perhaps I’ll see her again. She still has a long way to go before she learns to look right through me too, and it’s not as if I’m going anywhere.

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