The Balloon | Teen Ink

The Balloon

February 25, 2019
By Esmé GOLD, Petaluma, California
Esmé GOLD, Petaluma, California
11 articles 0 photos 4 comments

At the back of the yard, a deflated party balloon hangs on the fence, half buried in oak leaves. It is striped with metallic blue and pink and yellow, dotted with colorful stars. There is writing on it, but the crumples won’t allow me to read the words and I have never tried to unfold it because to touch it would be to ruin something perfectly imperfect.
            Sometimes, when I have gotten through my daily quota of human interaction, I climb the tree next to the balloon and just stare at it. Sometimes for a few seconds, just a quick glance to make sure it’s still as crumpled and dirty and right as before. Sometimes I look at it for minutes at a time, memorizing each fold, wondering how it got there. My favorite story is that it became sick of a party and just surreptitiously floated to this unnoticed corner, where it deflated itself in an effort to camouflage with its surroundings. It doesn’t mind my company because I am here for the same reason.
            I’m no stranger to escaping. The introverted theater nerd, the witty, talkative girl who disappears into the bathroom halfway through the party to crush down the panic boiling inside her. The girl who deflates throughout the night until she is hunched in a corner, pretending her phone is more interesting and important than her friends because she can’t think of one more clever thing to say, and God knows she’d rather be the antisocial asshole than the idiot. The crumpled balloon, colorful but unassuming, unsure if it wants to be noticed. Some might go so far as to call it useless. Sometimes I go so far as to call myself that.
            And yet, the balloon is perfectly imperfect. I can recognize this in a crumpled piece of litter dangling from a fence, but not in myself. When I sit in the tree and look at the balloon, I can find no flaw. When I sit in the tree and look at myself, I count my flaws, deflating until I am smaller and flatter and more crumpled than the balloon.
            But I sit in that tree, and I sit in that tree and I sit in that tree, until my feet fall asleep and my knees are patterned with ripples of bark, and I expand again, something the balloon will never do. And soon I will rise, and keep rising, becoming what I at once fear and know that I am: perfectly imperfect.

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