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The Great Escape
The sun began to rise, vibrant ribbons of pink, 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 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 spread their wings and fly to wherever they pleased, whereas Delilah was stuck in this disorganized apartment with effervescent chinaware and vivacious 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 Woodward did not sleep. She believed there was too much to experience in her life to just lie down and sleep away precious hours.
She tucked a lock of her auburn hair behind her ear before slipping on a pair of latex gloves. Before her stood a blank canvas; it was just as intimidating as a blank stare from a stranger, tempting her to bring upon something to be faced with, something with signification. This blank canvas wouldn’t be blank for very long.
She scribbled furiously with the brush against the cool, soft paper that was taped to the wall. Red, orange, pink. Then a little more red. Add some blue to the background to promote the idea that twilight was not long ago.
She stood back to examine her work and pressed her filthy hand under her chin, ignoring the fact there was paint on them. Something was missing. Something just wasn’t right. Her lips formed a small “O” as she grabbed the smallest paint brush she owned 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. Draping down the back of the flying human was the same long, auburn hair that hung from her own head. She closed her eyes and pressed a single finger to the darkened head. Her eyes tightened, lips curled inward, and she pushed herself away from the painting. Her finger had smeared the head and hair. It now appeared as if the figure truly was flying for the feathery appearance of the hair seemed to spiral freely before her eyes. In a Pollock-state of anger, she splattered the distant dream with black paint and dragged her restrained hand across her representation of liberation. Her narrow, hazel eyes flashed green as they zeroed in on the old bird clock cooing in the kitchen. Duty called.
Delilah worked at an art museum, giving hourly tours of the Pollock, Van Gogh, and African art exhibits. This wasn’t her dream job and she knew it, even as she felt the headpiece tucked around her ear securely, the microphone amplifying her raspy voice. Her manager was a decorous, nit-picky woman in her late forties, striving on every mistake Delilah made. As soon as she slipped up a word or confused a fact, her manager was sure to hurry over and publicly humiliate 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 blankly 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. That woman had turned her head with the last mutter, but she heard it. Her arms throbbed for she swore her blood ran ice cold, causing everything in her body to cease. The visitors stared at her nervously, 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 â€˜Starry Starry Night’ by Vincent Van Gogh,” she said. Her fingertips grazed the radiance of the thick painting as if an energy was reverberating from the paint and hovering like a forcefield. She always said that was her favorite piece, but was it really? 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 and more sick of it. Somehow in her mind, she could visualize the bird clock in her apartment, ticking. It was the hour of three, perhaps the robin’s call this time? But the call of the robin from her ticking bird clock meant the grasp of his dominance was just minutes away.
Delilah’s 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 silly in his crisp, striped shirt and dress pants, bent over and wobbling towards the papers. She easily snatched the papers up and handed them to him. His hair was brown, long, and slightly curly. The ends bowed around his eyes and the rest laid out impeccably in a field of waves. 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 messy 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 when her beau started coming home late from work.
Delilah did not desire her life, not at all. What was there to embrace? The only thing she grasped onto was her artistic ability and yet, even that seemed to push 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 Dad graduated from. As she grew older, her mind swayed to the ideas of different schools. What if she attended this large 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. In fact, college was the best years of her life; but afterwards 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 strived on 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 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 getting old, fast. There was a time when Delilah enjoyed talking to her mother. She had her moments: dancing in the car to hard rock, astounding the neighbors with less-than-desirable versions of KISS’s “I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night.” Things had been easier once she was out of the house. But it was as if Delilah’s mother could not grasp the fact that she was out on her own and in control of her life now. She smiled, her hand gripping the phone, as she remembered family dinners on summer evenings.
“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 memory bubble popped and Delilah sighed.
“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 empty, cool oven across the room.
“Oh, well okay then. Me and Dad miss you. I’ll call you later.”
Delilah set the phone down. She felt as if the weight of the receiver had drastically increased since she had picked it up ten minutes earlier. Her mother still treated her like she was sixteen; young, stupid, and ignorant. This is not how Delilah had pictured 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 fat 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 racing blurs and colors. She could feel the summer breeze finger the microscopic hairs on the back of her neck, almost tempting 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 for her. She wanted to do something spontaneous 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, depicting visions she had received in a dream and desires she hoped to achieve in the future. These were her 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, auburn hair now seemed to have turned a sizzling red in the sun and her freckles were darker like the bits of oreo in her favorite ice cream. Delilah’s eyes scanned the area in front of her in search of 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 her breathing was disabled, caught in the deepest cavities of her chest. Delilah’s hair whipped around her head violently and the tear ducts of her eyes tickled from the brutality of the wind, but then something astounding happened.
There were tickling sensations on the backs of her shoulder blades like childrens’ fingers pattering from within the bone. The rhythm, seeming to coincide with the orchestra of the city clamor, soon grew into full pulsations. A pair of strong, feathery wings sprouted from the spot. They immediately caught the wind and stopped her falling. She flapped them weakly and pushed herself upward. Bono watched as she flew past the window and towards the roof. Upon the corner sat the same fat seagull, taking in this new sight. Delilah grinned and with one great exhale, she swooped down like a vengeful hawk and soared into the promising light of the sunset, the seagull following close behind.