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The Great Escape
The sun rose, vibrant ribbons of pink, purple, orange, and the blue tone of the lingering presence of the night expanding in the sky. A few seagulls perched themselves upon the corner of a building, squawking to one another and cocking their heads to one side as if determining the strange occurrences of the awakening day. Indeed, Chicago was arising from its pleasant sleep.
Delilah was similar to the seagulls, for she sat upon her window glancing down at the city below from her mediocre apartment. Sure, these seagulls and Delilah both had this position in common; an interest in watching the city slowly wake up. But there was an extreme difference, as well. The seagulls were free to extend their wings and fly to wherever they pleased, whereas Delilah was stuck in this muddled apartment with mottled chinaware and zealous art work. She hugged an orange pillow against her chest and watched as the seagulls bobbed their heads and took off in flight towards the rising sun. Someday, Delilah, too, would fly away.
Using the sunrise as inspiration, she grabbed her paintbrush and gathered the paints that sat in the corner on a shelf. Delilah and sleep did not associate with each other. They were strangers in different worlds for Delilah Bessner did not sleep. She believed there were too many opportunities in her life to just lie down and squander valuable hours.
She tucked a lock of her ginger hair behind her ear before slipping on a pair of latex gloves. Before her stood a vacant canvas; it was just as intimidating as a blank stare from an unknown stranger, tempting her to bring upon something inconceivable and beyond her natural talent. This blank canvas wouldn’t stand desolate for very long.
She scribbled feverishly with the brush against the cool, soft paper that was taped to the wall. Red, orange, pink; then another dash of red and added some blue to the milieu to promote the idea that twilight was not long ago.
She stood back to scrutinize her work and pressed her filthy hand under her chin, ignoring the fact there was paint on them. Something was absent. Something just wasn’t right. Her lips formed a small “O” as she grabbed the smallest paint brush she had and dabbed it into the black paint. She began to draw the outline of a seagull, tracing its bulbous head several times before realizing a seagull is not what she wanted to draw. Instead, she added a pair of legs, arms, and wings to the head. Draping down the back of the flying human was the same long, auburn hair that hung from her own head.
Delilah worked at an art museum, giving hourly tours of the Pollock, Van Gogh, and African art exhibits. This wasn’t her dream profession and she knew it, even as she felt the headpiece tucked around her ear securely, the microphone amplifying her gruff voice. Her manager was a decorous, nit-picky woman in her late forties, surveying every blunder Delilah seemed to make. As soon as she slipped up a word or confused a fact, her manager was sure to hurry over and publicly debase her in front of the entire crowd.
“Now, Delilah, I do not believe that he actually grew up in the middle of the rainforest. I do believe he was first placed in a foster home near the rainforest and then adopted by a South African family thereafter. Right?” She said. Everyone stared perplexedly at Delilah, taking in her flaws and waiting for the approval, the agreement, that she had been wrong.
“Ah sure, yes I guess I forgot that. Right…” She itched her neck nervously where her fingernails dug into a dried blob of paint. Luckily, it had been hidden behind her braid. Her manager smiled in triumph.
“You just have to remember those facts from now on, okay now? I don’t know how many times I tell you to study the artists diligently.” She shook her head softly. “That’ll teach me to hire another wannabe.” Delilah froze. Her arms had hurt for she swore her blood ran ice cold, causing everything in her body to cease. The visitors stared at her tensely, almost embarrassed for her. She choked before continuing on. Pushing through the day was hard when everything was always frazzled.
“A famous piece and personally, one of my favorites, is ‘Starry Starry Night’ by Vincent Van Gogh,” she said. Delilah always said that was her favorite piece, but was it really? In the thick swirls of paint and the luminous, blobby stars that reached out in points like the white caps of waves, she wasn’t sure she found the painting terribly appealing anymore. She had lost interest in a painting that had become so much a part of popular society. This wasn’t giving Delilah much hope, but each day she continued to give her tours at the art museum. Each day she glorified “Starry Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh, and each day she grew more weary of it.
Delilah has a boyfriend. It was delightful how they met. She was sitting in the park reading the latest Stephen King novel when she noticed a guy chasing a couple runaway sheets of paper. He looked ridiculous in his crisp, striped shirt and dress pants, bent over and wobbling towards the papers. She effortlessly snatched the papers up and handed them to the guy. His hair was milk chocolate-colored, long, and a tad bit curly. The ends bowed around his eyes and flipped out at the tips. His eyes were a radiant green and mirrored the sun, making them appear almost golden. He smiled gawkily as he grasped the papers.
“Thanks,” he grinned.
“No problem,” she replied. Things were incredible at first. Fiery passion met with bouts of love. That was until he got sick of her disorderly apartment, always something covered in paint. And how he hated those paint-covered tennis shoes. Why couldn’t she find just one day to look proper? There was always paint somewhere on her body whether it be inside her ears or on the back of her arms. That was the point when her beau, Ben, started coming home late from work; when all of the fiery passion had sizzled to its final spark and died out soundlessly.
Delilah did not desire her life, not at all. What was there to embrace? The only thing she managed to hold onto was her artistic flair and yet, even that seemed to drive people away. She wanted to be content and liberated. There was also another obstacle in the way of this aspiration: her mother. She was the reason she had only moved an hour away from home. It had always been thought out that Delilah would go to the school her father had graduated from. As she grew older, her mind contemplated the ideas of different schools. What if she attended this enormous university and discovered a place on her own rather than embarking on a mission that has already been accomplished? Rather than exploring a place that has already been uncovered? Her mind wavered and she fell into the hands of her parents, choosing to attend the university they had attended. No, college there wasn’t bad, wasn’t terrible at all. College was the best years of her life, yet after that everything seemed to fall into this mundane pit. She began questioning her decisions. Perhaps she should’ve attended college somewhere else? After reading all of those college books at the library, she had definitely learned that college was supposed to be an innovative experience. Instead, college was just like getting back together with old friends and staying someplace proverbial. This wasn’t Delilah. She hankered for new places and experiences; meeting new people. After all, it was how she was brought up.
The phone rang and she stared down at the caller ID, knowing it was her mother. She called every Sunday to check in with Delilah.
“Hey how’s it going?” she asked her mother.
“Good, good. So how’s everything with you? You doing alright? How’s Bono?”
Delilah stared over at her French bulldog, Bono, who was fast asleep on his doggy bed. He snorted and itched his nose unconsciously.
“He’s fine, mom. Everything’s fine.” There was nothing worse than the nagging of her mother. All throughout her teen years, she thought she would be able to escape it once she moved out of the house. Luckily, most of it dissipated, that is until she began to receive the weekly phone calls from her.
“You getting your laundry done alright?” she asked.
“Yes, I go to the little place down the street.” Delilah began to play with the magnets on her fridge. This conversation was growing old, rapidly.
“Place down the street? Isn’t there one in your apartment building? Do you have a friend who can go with you? You shouldn’t be walking there alone. Women are vulnerable nowadays.”
“The one here is broken. Look, Mom, I got to go. I’m baking cookies and they’re going to burn if I don’t get off and if I try to get them out with the phone, I’ll prolly burn my arm off,” Delilah said as she stared at the bare, cool oven across the room.
“Oh, well okay then. Dad and I miss you. I’ll call you later, bye.”
Delilah set the phone down and for some odd reason, it felt as if the receiver weighed at least one hundred pounds. Her mother still treated her like she was sixteen; young, stupid, and a know-it-all. This is not how Delilah had depicted her life at twenty-three years of age. This is not how things were supposed to turn out.
She raced to the window of her apartment and now faced a setting sun. On the corner of the building sat a stout seagull, looking her up and down with its beady eyes, taking in the resonating disappointment from her quivering frame. Delilah wanted to be free.
She slowly inched her way to the ledge and peered down. A bustling street was below her, a plethora of dashing blurs and intermingled colors. She could feel the summer breeze tickle the microscopic hairs on the back of her neck, almost alluring her into sliding forward. She couldn’t handle the monotony of her job or the chronic mistreatment from her boyfriend anymore. Her mother was still holding her down from living her own life and it seemed there was nothing left in this tedious life. She wanted to do something impulsive for once; something crazy and unthinkable. Who knows what would happen after she slid from this ledge? A plane could fly by and catch her or she could land on the back of a colossal bird. Just like in the movies, maybe she’d get a soft landing on the awning of a vendor.
She turned around to face her apartment. Bono was now standing up on his four, stubby legs, his head cocked in frustration. Her colorful paintings adorned her apartment walls, portraying recollections of her dreams and desires. These were her sentimental feelings on paper, yet now she wanted to see some of them in action. The only way to test this was to receive the rush; take the leap.
So she turned back around and instead of looking down, she faced straight ahead towards the sun dipping below Lake Michigan. Her wild, golden-brown hair now seemed to have turned a sizzling red in the sun and her freckles were darker than usual. Her eyes scanned the area in front of her in search for any protruding objects, but there were none. Yes, this was it. Her trembling hands grasped the ledge as she stood herself up, never once looking down at the traffic. She inhaled deeply and exhaled at the same pace. And with one simple step, she walked off of the ledge of her apartment window. Her stomach rose up to her throat and for a minute she felt like she couldn’t breathe. Her hair whipped around her head sadistically and her eyes began to water, but then something astounding happened. There were trivial, tickly sensations on the back of her shoulder blades. Out of nowhere, a pair of brawny, feathery wings sprouted from her back. They instantaneously caught the wind and stopped her falling. She flapped them gradually at first and pushed herself upward. Bono watched her as she flew past her apartment window and towards the roof. Upon the corner sat the same, chubby seagull, taking in this new sight. Delilah grinned and with one great exhale, she swooped down like a vengeful hawk and soared into the blinding light of the sunset, the fat seagull following closely behind.