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The ground is flat as I look down from the big rainbow balloon that is carrying me across the sky. The sky is clear as can be, but of course it has to be or the balloon would not be safe to ride in. My balloon pilot is my friend Jamie. He has flown in these contraptions lots of times and is basically a natural to flying. I love to see how peaceful he is when he is up in the clouds. It’s like he belongs there.
Then there’s me. Me, who has been a fan of the ground since the time I was on a place that about crashed. This is the first time I have been higher than a few feet in the air since I was 5. It took Jamie a lot of convincing to get me up here. I am starting to forget why I was so afraid of flying. It’s inspiring and beautiful from up here. I can see the people going on with their everyday lives, not knowing that I am here watching them from above. How wonderful the angels and clouds must feel to see this site everyday when they wake up.
“Look! Look! This is what I wanted you to see! Isn’t that the most amazing site ever?” Jamie exclaims. His face is lit by the faint orange glow of the sunrise to the east. I look to my left to see the brilliant hues of pink, orange, and gold peeking out from under the horizon. It almost takes my breath away. I have had an obsession with color ever since I could remember. But this was just too much. From being higher than ground level, you can see the sunrise from a much larger width. I am virtually a part of the spectacle, being high in the clouds and all. I take out my Nikon camera, my baby I got for my birthday last year. I bring my eye to the tiny screen on the back and position my shot.
After about 20 pictures, I stop and look at the masterpiece I have just captured. The pictures don’t even compare to the sight I am seeing in front of me.
“These pictures don’t even compare to the real thing, but I’m sure the art gallery would love to have them in my exhibit.” I say.
“Do you see now why I had to bring you up here to see this instead of just showing you a picture?” Jamie asks. He has been trying to get me to come up in his hot air balloon ever since he got his license. I never see him anymore; he is always up in the sky giving people rides for a mere $10 an hour. He has begged me and begged me to come see the sunset with him some morning before I was to leave. He was worried that I’d be gone for too long on the trip for work before I could ever come up in the clouds. The only reason I agreed that I would come up in the sky is if he would come with me on my trip to the coral reef to snap pictures for the art gallery. Jamie has a terrible fear of swimming with fish. We made our little agreement reluctantly, for we were both scared out of our minds.
I look over to Jamie after the sunrise has fully risen. His clear blue eyes are alight with the excitement of being in the sky, in the place he has always meant to be. I bring up my camera and snap a picture.
“Hey!” He covers his eyes with his arm, “what was that for? You know I hate pictures.”
I smile and say “I have never gotten a picture of you and this was the perfect time. The lighting is perfect.” It really is, the newly risen sun has added a glow around his mop of curly black hair, adding faint brown highlights. And most importantly he was not scowling like he always is on the ground.
“Well how about this. Since I took a picture of you, you take a picture of me. But make sure it’s unexpected. When people pose for pictures I feel like we aren’t actually seeing how the person is in real life. We are just seeing their interpretation of the picture. But I want you to take a picture of me that shows a side of me that others don’t see. That what I did with you. I am trying to create a new series of pictures showing the second side of people. Most of the time people just see the side we are trying to pretend to be. Can you do that? I know you’re good a taking pictures.”
He looks a little flustered from having such a big job, but he accepts my Nikon when I hand it to him. I show him how to run the controls, but I know he understands how to use it since I’m sure he uses it when I’m not looking. We are in the balloon for at least another hour when he snaps a picture.
I look over to him and he smiles sheepishly, his cheeks slightly red. He is looking at the picture and I am wondering why he is so embarrassed. I ask to see the camera and he hands it over. He is now blushing even harder. I raise my eyebrow and look at the picture. I am blown away. The sky is absolutely a clear blue, almost the same color as Jamie’s eyes. I can see the country landscape beneath the flock of other balloons floating in the sky. But that’s not the breathtaking part. I look like a completely different person. I am leaning against the side of the basket, a thoughtful look in my sun-lit hazel eyes beneath my thick black lashes coated in mascara. My short brown hair has a faint golden glow to it and is lightly blown around my face, slightly showing the hidden pink streak of hair in my bangs. I have never thought I looked like that. I always thought my mask of happiness was shown instead of my actual thoughts. The clouds took that mask and threw it away. Kind of like Jamie’s mask, it stays at the ground as he flies higher.
“Jamie! This is amazing! Do I always look like this?...” I ask awkwardly.
“No. I have never seen you have that expression before. That’s why I took the picture at that moment. It fit my expectation for your requirements perfectly. Thank you so much for coming up here with me. Now I saw how you really are. And now you see why I love the sky so much. It strips us of our worries and brings out our inner thoughts.” He smiles then quickly looks down, suddenly embarrassed. I grin goofily, tears rising into my eyes. I step over and grab him in a hug. He hugs back and we are suddenly at the most understand point in our relationship.
Now if the coral reef trip is this amazing, I think I’m never going to leave the water.