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Just Around the Corner
It was there through all the seasons. It caught the light of the snow in the winter, shining upon the falling flakes, creating a halo around them. In the summer, it illuminated the streets so that the children could play out after the sun had lain down to sleep. It was always comfortably there, solid, but nobody really paid any attention to it.
Fae walked on the sidewalk and when she reached the corner, she swung around it, looking up at it to stare at the tip of it. She laughed with pleasure, her head tilted up still, laughing at the stars. The stars gave off light as well, but it was the lamppost that did most of the work. The warm cozy light shone down upon Fae as she stood right below it, like a spotlight. Fae raised her hands to her lips as if holding a microphone and began to mouth the lyrics to a song, glowing softly with the light surrounding her.
But then, her smile and mood faded softly, just like the glow of the sun creeping below the horizon as she remembered the past few days. She was too empty to cry right now. If she cried anymore, she would probably die from dehydration. All the fighting resounded within the walls of her house. She would hate to leave this house, these memories, her friends, her favorite places, but she would because she didn’t have a choice. “It’s a good thing for us all,” her father promised.
When he had received the job offer, she had been so happy. She could start all over; a new beginning, become any one she wanted to be. She had smiled broadly and conversed about opportunities. The more she thought about it, though, she felt a deep glitch within herself. It was like something was about to be snatched away from her. She didn’t want to leave her friends, but, she countered, the next year she would be going to high school and she would make other friends anyway. How about her memories? She would make others. She fought terribly within herself; wanting to be good and enthusiastic but always feeling something leave her when she thought of going somewhere else. She knew that when the time came, she would pack all her things, and board the plane, but how would she feel about it then?
She sat down on a rock by the lamppost, lost in thought, the battle yet again raging within her. “What’s wrong?” a voice called to her. It was small and high pitched, but she heard it loud and clear. Fae looked behind her and saw nobody. She dismissed the noise as a figment of her imagination, but it came again repeating the words she had just heard. Fae shook her head, thinking how crazy she was.
“Oh, this is frustrating,” the voice shrilled. “Come up here, will you?”
Even though she was aware of how ridiculous she looked, she found herself responding, “Up where?”
“So you’ll come?”
“Sure,” Fae said. She knew she shouldn’t go anywhere with a stranger, but she felt an urge to listen to the mysterious voice. She felt strange all of a sudden, as if she were being compressed. Her head ached from pressure and her bones tried to squeeze into a place too small for them. And then, she was up in the air, here feet dangling beneath her. Where was she going? Fae was frantic, kicking and screaming, trying to get away.
“Shhhhhh!” muttered the voice. When she stopped moving, Fae opened her closed eyes, she was peering into a very bright light. Was she dying? But then she saw movement within the light, and she realized there was a glass pane between herself and the light. “Come on, move through it,” coaxed the voice. Fae extended her hand and pushed the glass and found that the glass was like an unbreakable bubble; she could move through it and it felt like jelly, but it didn’t pop. She pulled the rest of her body through and found that it wasn’t so bright inside the lamppost. There was a very small woman sitting on the bottom of the light casing. Her knees were bent underneath her, and her hands were splayed across the ground. Her legs were bright, sparkling, and giving off light. Fae blinked; was this very tiny woman the ‘light bulb’ inside the lamppost? Could it possibly be? She was looking up though and smiling. “Hello,” she said. “My name’s Lucinda. How are you Fae? You look awfully upset.”
“Um, I’m good, you?” I said.
“I don’t think you are good, Fae, and I was wondering whether you could tell me why? You see, I’m trying to understand how you people work. We always have to be happy or else we won’t give off light, and you humans always need light; you can’t function without it. I am always happy, as are my companions, and I would very much like to understand how humans can feel so many different things,” Lucinda said, smiling through it all.
Fae was shocked into silence, but when she found her tongue she responded, “I’m sorry?”
“I am a creature, undiscovered to humans, in fact, I am breaking all of our rules by simply talking to you. We are called Luminettas; light fairies. We give off light when we are happy, and for hundreds of years, we have inhabited your street lights. Natural selection has made it so that we are always happy, making it possible for us to illuminate your cities whenever the need arises. We can also appear to look like light bulbs whenever a human comes to inspect our lamppost.
“I’ve always wondered what it must feel like to be sad or surprised, or something other than happy. It is such a monotonous life to be like this. Please, tell me, describe to me, what it is like to feel like you do now,” Lucinda begged.
“You don’t want to feel like this. I can tell you that right now,” I told Lucinda briskly, “So if you could please let me leave…somehow…”
“Please,” Lucinda said again, “Besides, you can’t leave until I let you, so just tell me and you can go.”
I sat stubbornly on the ground for a while, at the same time marveling at how small I was. Finally, “Well, it feels like something is leaving you and you can’t stop it. It also feels like you’ve swallowed a large cotton ball and it got stuck right in the middle of your throat. I mean, I really don’t want to leave and move. It feels like you’ll never be happy ever again.
“After awhile, though, you can be. It’s all just about letting things come and go. I mean, there can be no order without chaos, no health without illness, no perfection without imperfection, no wealth without poverty, and no joy without sorrow. So I guess, I should just take what comes and embrace it.” Lucinda looked at me with sympathy, and Fae thought for an instant that she understood, but she never would. It seems like it would be so liberating to be happy all the time, but it was so imprisoning, almost in a literal sense; here Lucinda was, trapped in this light casing, shining with her radiant beauty and all because she could never feel anything other than joy.
“Watch out!” Lucinda screamed. She jumped to her feet, her legs suddenly dim. She lunged to the other side of the casing. A stone came crashing through the glass, shattering all the calm light inside the lamppost. Two little boys were aiming little rocks at the lamppost for a game. Both Lucinda and Fae were all right; at least physically. “Oh, no! Oh no, oh no!” Lucinda muttered. She was patting her legs, rubbing them, “I’m happy, I’m happy. Look, playful little boys, how much fun they’re having. I have to give them light to play in.”
“Are you alright?” Fae asked concerned.
“I was so… I don’t know, I thought I was going to die.”
“You were afraid, Lucinda.”
“I was. Really? Wow. I never thought it would feel so bad. Oh, my. I should be glad I don’t have to feel those things,” and her legs sputtered and glowed with warmth again. But she had felt terror, and she was so happy. “Oh my goodness! The question is, are you alright, Fae?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” but really she was better than fine. All her feelings had splintered just like the glass. She could rebuild them, she could take what came, and deal with it then. She should be happy that she was different from Lucinda who could never feel what it meant to live. “Lucinda, do you think I could leave now?”
Lucinda nodded and Fae felt herself floating in the air, lowering. Then she was an overstuffed chest that could not hold everything inside it. She shuddered and tried to break free of this box and then she was her normal size once more. She looked up at the top of the lamppost and saw a broken light casing, but light still glowing through it. And for a moment, she almost thought she saw movement, but Fae knew that Lucinda would never let herself be shown again.
Just like that, Fae kept walking on the sidewalk, wrapping up her late night stroll.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
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