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We used to go to the toyshop and buy a bag of balloons, then go to the park and write our dreams on them and let them go. She would look me in the eyes and whisper “You can’t give up on your dream until you see that balloon again. Only then can you stop fighting for them.” She probably never would have said that if she knew that underneath all of the words and ink I was really writing her name on every balloon. On every red balloon we would write our dreams on, we would draw little shooting stars in honor of Nenas 99 red balloons, which is where we got the idea for this activity we loved to do so much. We would always plan to do the balloon release, as we would call it, on the last Saturday of every month. But we regularly found ourselves doing it every Saturday. It became the second best thing in my life. The first was her.
There’s something you should understand about Cameron. She’s not like other girls. I know guys always say that about the girls they like, and it’s true because to them they are unique, but to everyone Cameron is unique. Everyone loved her hair that hardly ever stayed the same color for more then three weeks, her fascination with piercings, her style that no one could copy and pull off. No one else could match her musical skills or her writing. She was the only person at our school who liked graffiti and was good at it. Almost everyone at our school had a hat she crotched and sold at the charity campaign for the AIDs victims in Africa. She made over 3000 dollars that day.
What people loved about her the most were her eyes. At first glance they’re the color of Carmel. But if you take a second to look closer into those eyes you would see the flecks of green, blue, gray, and gold. Those eyes made you believe anything can happen. That anything is possible if you have someone like her to believe in you and help you through your trials. Her eyes could put any ones pounding heart to ease. Because of her eyes everyone loved her. She got invited to every party, was asked to every dance, everyone wanted to hang out with her. For some reason she always takes me to the parties, chooses me to go to the dances with and always hangs out with me.
Nothing could scare her. She went bungee jumping in eighth grade to know what it feels like to truly fall with no one beneath you to catch you. She went sky diving freshman year to know what it feels like to fly with the angles.
Nothing could make her see the dark side of life. Not even losing her father. I remember crying every time I went over to her house in fifth grade while her dad was in the hospital. The feeling of being there with pictures of him and memories of him while he was possibly taking his last breath was too much for me. But she stayed strong and only cried at the funeral. She wasn’t crying for the loss of her father. She was crying because there were so many people there crying and she hates when people cry. Many people thought it was odd that a ten-year-old girl didn’t cry for her father. But she had promised him she wouldn’t and she kept that promise. She always kept her promises.
Everything was going perfect. We just graduated high school and were going to go off to Otis Art School in San Francisco together. She promised to never leave me until it was time to go our separate ways and even then we would stay in touch.
We were going to do our last balloon release of the summer and then we drive to San Francisco for freshman orientation. This was the last time we would be doing the balloon release in this park for a while.
“What are you writing?” Her question was simple but her voice was hiding something.
“I’m writing that we get through college and get the jobs we want after we graduate with honors. What are you writing?”
“That I survive.”
“Of course you’re going to survive. You have to, who else is going to help me survive?”
“I don’t know if I’m going to survive this one. I think it’s to much.” As she released her pink balloon her eyes filled with tears for the first time in two years.
“Cameron… its just college. We got through high school we can get through college. We have each other. We can get through anything.”
“Robbie, come sit with me,” as she folds her legs she continues to write down her dream on her balloons. As we silently watch her dream float into the distance her fingers wrap around my hand.
“What’s wrong? Cameron, tell me why you’re scared.”
“College is going to be great isn’t it?”
“Yeah, you’re going to be the most popular person there. I know you don’t care about that stuff but everyone is going to love you. You’re going to do great in all of your classes. You’re going to survive and you’re going to love it.” Her hand tightens around mine and I know that I haven’t comforted her
“Robbie you silly boy. I’m not worried about college. I know it’s going to be great.”
“What are you worried about?”
“You remember how in fifth grade my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer and it was detected to late and the tumors were to big and he went through months of treatment and pain?”
“Yeah. How could I forget?”
“Well, they detected mine early and I start treatment next month in San Francisco and they say I have an 85 percent chance of recovery.” Her voice was so calm and sweet even though her words were daggers.
“What? Cancer?” I can feel the pins and needles in my legs and have to stand or they will turn into knives. The tears start streaming down her face as she wraps her arms around her legs. “How long have you known?”
“The test results came back two weeks ago and we made my appointment last Thursday. I didn’t want to tell you until I knew if I was going to Otis or not.”
“Should you be going to school?”
“They say if my studies start getting in the way then I should lay off until I recover. But I think I can do it.”
“So when you guys went down to check out the apartment you were really meeting with the doctor?”
“Yeah. Sit back down. You’re making me nervous kid.” My legs listened to her order and would no longer hold my weight. Wrapping her arms around my shoulders and placing her head on her arms I can’t help but wonder what it look like in her head.
“You know I love you right?”
“Yes. I love you too.”
“No, like I really love you. Like that’s the reason I never wanted to take anyone else to the dances and I would only go out with someone if you told me to and why whenever we hangout I turn off my cell phone.”
“Yes. I love you too.” As her hands go back to the position in her lap and her eyes look anywhere but into mine I worry that I have gone to far and she has broken her promise that she would never lie to me.
“So, shall we get back to the balloons?”
“Sure.” She sounds annoyed and I hate when her voice gets that tone of you’re an idiot.
“What do you mean?” now she’s using the tone of you’re an idiot who should know what’s wrong.
“You’re using your tones again.”
“Oh, my tones. I’m sorry. I wont use my tones anymore.”
“Or you could just tell me what’s wrong so I wont waste my balloons on wishing I knew what I’m supposed to know.”
“Well normally when someone tells you they love you after you spill your heart out to them you kiss them. I mean you know cancer isn’t contagious.”
“I didn’t know you wanted me to kiss you.”
“Well sometimes I want you to decide you should do something on your own. I don’t want you to feel like you have to.”
“I didn’t know.”
“Well now you do. So go ahead.”
As our lips gently touch I know it won’t be long until I feel hers against mine again.
“Did I do it right?”
“Yeah. Now we can get back to the balloons.”
“Okay. I call that red one.”
As I scribble my dream on my red balloon I quickly draw a shooting star next to the words I hope she loves me forever.
“You can’t give up on your dreams. Only until you see that balloon can you stop fighting for them. I know it will come true.”
“You don’t even know what I wrote.”
“I don’t need to know. It will come true.”
“Would you like to know what it is?”
“Okay. But you tell me yours first.”
“You can’t do that.”
“Ask me if I want to know then bargain with me.”
“I just did.”
“Good point. Fine I’ll tell you first but then you have to tell me.”
“I wrote that I hope he loves me for ever.”
“You wrote that you hope he loves you forever?? It’s a good wish but I was expecting something a little different.”
“Very funny. I wrote that I hope she loves me forever.” And I wont give up on it until I see that balloon again. I know she will never see that balloon again.