Our Smiling Red and Blue Balloons

March 19, 2011
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I loved the way he said balloon. Though I had only heard him say it once before. The sky was that summer’s day blue, accompanied by luscious clouds in shapes of animals as if it was the zoo. Murmurs of playing kids and barking dogs rang distantly in my ears while mothers gardened in there Sunday denim and those good fathers mowed their crisp proud lawns. Him and me, we stood against our landmark tree; the greatest oak on the block. We watched in wonder, our necks crooked back squinty eyed at the sky as the wind took hold of our balloons.
His as generic blue as mine was red.
Until only a faint speck of an erased punctuation mark was in the sky.
And then gone.
“Where do you think they went?” I asked as I carefully slid down the trees stump dizzy and spotty eyed from staring at the sun to long. He, less gracefully, dropped down next to me pondering our life’s greatest unknown.

“Balloon heaven”, was his philosophical response. I nodded, as I always did and imagined our balloons floating into space frolicking among the stars causally avoiding all sorts of space rocks and asteroids. The balloons seemed to be smiling, the way balloons do when there rubber hits the light at just the right angle.
Smiling, the sounds of bells and snapping twigs broke my vision and sent me back to the scene at the tree. Down block we saw the big kids on their two wheeler trick bikes riding in the street. After spotting us they slowed down and jumped off their bikes letting them crash together carelessly on the pavement in a painfully uncomforting symphony of clangs that caused me to cringe; cringe like that one time when I broke dad’s jar of collectable coins and my face grew hot and sticky after being sent to my room. Again distracted, I was brought back the high pitched singing of young prepubescent voices informing us that we were sitting in a tree and K.I.S.S.I.N.G. I frowned and hid my face in my too long dirty sweatshirt sleeves.
And he defended us.
That was the first time I loved him.

The balloon game became a hobby of ours. After every birthday party, block party, or any celebration with party favors and balloons, we would sneak as many homes with us as we could. Then we could sit at our tree and watch them disappear; him watching the sky, as I watched him say balloon. Every time we let them go the question of where we thought they went would come up. I would imagine our smiling red and blue balloons on epic adventures.
A few years later on that cold October Sunday we had successfully obtained two balloons, fittingly a red and a blue. We let them go on the count of 1, 2, 3, and I asked him where he imagined they went.
He told me they would eventually pop.

I no longer loved the way he said balloon.

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