From The Sky.

The James Webb Space Telescope is big in the news right now but, in a funny coincidence, we had something fall from the sky in our backyard recently. At first I didn’t know what it was and I saw it coming from a long way away, drifting up over the house like a mutant cloud, dark but with hints of light, trailing a narrow black tail.

Then it came down in the driveway and I could see it had once been a balloon–a giant 2, I think, that had popped open somewhere up in the air before it came down to rest, still exhaling some of its precious helium–but not enough for me to suck in and make my voice sound funny. Why a 2? That’s a mystery in itself. A black number birthday would most likely be one that ended with a zero–forty being the big one, but it’s all downhill from there. Maybe it was for a goth kid’s 12th birthday.

Balloon escapes seem to happen all the time. There’s a party supply store I drive by occasionally and I’ve seen people struggling to get clusters of balloons into their cars and I’d like to help but even if it weren’t weird to have a stranger come up and offer to hold your balloons what could I do? There’s no easy way to manage a bundle of plastic or mylar sacks filled with lighter than air gas and, now that I think about it, I guess “balloons” is a better name because it would sound even worse to have a stranger come up and offer to hold your lighter than air sacks, but that’s another story.

I know some kids love to get balloons and then let go of them–go to any theme park on any day and you’re bound to see at least one balloon flying over the crowd–but I was a kid who held onto balloons and would take them home. I loved the film The Red Balloon which teachers at school or adults at church would have us watch on rainy days when we couldn’t go outside. I didn’t care that my balloons didn’t follow me. I was happy to fall asleep watching my balloon bob around on the ceiling, only to wake up to it wrinkled and sad on the floor.

The only time I let a balloon go was when I tied a note to the string with my name and a little bit about me–I don’t remember what, exactly, and my address. “Please write back to me,” I wrote, with the urgency of an eight-year old. Then I let it go and watched it soar up and up and up until I couldn’t see it, and I imagined it sailing across states, maybe across the ocean, landing in the hands of another kid like me but different enough that we could share the strangeness of our lives.

No one ever wrote. But I did have a large black 2 come down in the driveway, and I shared it with a friend who texted back, “Are you wearing Crocs?”

I’ve learned to take the strangeness where I can find it.

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8 Comments

  1. ANN J KOPLOW

    Thanks for sending this one up there, Chris — it landed well.
    ANN J KOPLOW recently posted…Day 3575: The past, present, and futureMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      One of my concerns about letting my imagination soar is making a safe landing. I’m glad you were here when I came down.

      Reply
  2. Arionis

    You could probably find the answer to to that and life if only the 4 would drop down too.
    Arionis recently posted…Starving AuthorMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It would have been nice if we’d gotten a 4 to go along with it–it might have helped with this pain I’ve been having in the diodes on my left-hand side. And we wouldn’t have the annoyance of just having a big old number two drop on us.

      Reply
  3. mydangblog

    I remember that short film The Red Balloon–it terrified me as a child, especially the scene where they’re all shooting rocks at it! Maybe your 2 is an omen, although if you turn it upside down, it looks like that silhouette of the Loch Ness Monster!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Hey, having the Loch Ness Monster land in our driveway seems like a good omen! And The Red Balloon kind of terrified me too–although the part that always got me was when the balloon got stomped on. For some reason I thought the kid who owned the balloon was the one who did it, like he was putting it out of its misery. Yes, I took a film that has a slightly dark tone to it and made it even darker.

      Reply
  4. M.L. James

    Chris,
    Call me crazy, but maybe this was the Universe’s answer to the balloon you sent! The question is: are you going to send another one? Mona
    M.L. James recently posted…Comment on Cherry Pie by M.L. JamesMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I could send another balloon out with my information but there are easier ways to get pen pals these days, and also I don’t want to pollute.

      Reply

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