I once met a girl who would travel the world by use of a balloon. It used to be she would only travel alone, but one day she decided she would take me with her, forcing my heart to float along with hers. We stood there by the water, just us two, and she took hold of my hand, gently lifting me up as if I weighed nothing more than a mere flower. With her other hand holding the string of the balloon, she lifted her arm towards the sky as we started to float away and the grass below us started to shrink, its green glow turning into a pasty pink. Then the skyline collapsed below us, and as we rose up past the high-rises and entered the pale blue sky, the winter night started to shift into a summer solstice.
All the little drops of snow started to fade, and the cold breeze that shook our bones just a moment ago disappeared, turning into a melting sunshine which stripped the coats from our bodies and tossed them to the ground. Touching the clouds, we stopped our ascent and started to move with the wind, passing rooftop after rooftop as our fleeces floated back down to the surface like plastic bags caught in a drift.
We roamed the sky like a pair of connected kites, gently guided by nature herself. As we flew, I looked up at the girl with the balloon, staring in awe as her newly exposed skin shined bright in the sunlight. She held my hand as she floated above me and, even though she was so close to me, our bodies attached by our linked arms, she still felt as far away as she ever did. It was like she was still floating, farther and farther away, alone with nothing but her balloon, as she always was, and I was only watching.
“We’re almost there,” she said then, turning her head towards me, blinding me with a soft and simple smile.
She wasn’t the most beautiful girl in the world—flawed in all the right places—but the feelings she planted in me made her seem that way. Whenever she was near, I couldn’t help but be captivated. I was drawn to her like a mouse was drawn to a simple cube of cheese. There wasn’t any obstacle I wouldn’t run through in order to get close to her.
“Come up here,” she said, drawing me up to her and carrying me around her like a backpack.
“Are we going—”
“Yes! To the very top of it!”
We were soaring up towards the peak of the playhouse, to a mile-high metropolis which made all the other towers look like toys. Its shimmering silver body looked like an endless ladder from the ground up. Only now that I was with her could I see where it finally ended and truly appreciate its beauty. And as I looked over in awe, we slowly drifted above its longest ledge.
“Don’t be afraid,” she said, sliding me off her back and down her shoulder. “It’s no different than landing on a plain of grass.”
We floated down towards the top of the tower, our toes giving the edge a tender little tap before rolling our feet onto the surface. Then we sat, resting our feet over the edge, rocking them back and forth like two kids sitting on the world’s highest swing-set. Looking down, there was almost nothing to see but the other towers, sitting far enough away that they looked like simple townhouses. The people were too far gone. The pavement was a distant dream. All that could truly be seen were the other clouds and the girl with the balloon.
I looked over at her like the rest of the world didn’t exist, while she looked out at the world like I didn’t. Her smile was as warm as the newly lit sun, and her eyes sparkled like satellites as she locked them with the great beyond.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” she said, staring into the sky.
“Incredible,” I said, staring at her.
We looked out, over at the horizon, for what felt like a millennium without saying a word. Surrounded by silence, my heart started to tick like a time-bomb, ready to explode at any moment. I took a big gulp, swallowing my fears, and let out the words I wanted to say.
“So, what made you finally decide to let me join you?”
She looked over at me then, shining another one of those soft smiles my way, and instantly I felt another layer of myself melt away. Then she looked back to the sky and responded.
“I always wanted to take you with me. I was just afraid of what you would think it meant.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, already knowing.
“I know you. You can’t hide yourself from me. You never could. I know what you feel for me. And I feel for you too. But it’s not the same. Taking you with me…I worried you would think it would mean you were special. That my feelings had changed. And you are special to me. But not in that way.”
I turned away from her then as my heart started to shrink and my cheeks started to sag. She was like lightning, and I was the ground she struck with every flash.
“Come on now, there’s no reason to be sad. We can still make some magic. Just look where we are!”
She took hold of my hand then and all of a sudden it was Christmas. The snow had returned, dropping shallow little flakes of wonder on our cheeks, and above our heads a mistletoe hung frozen in the air. I turned back to her, and she to me. There was the smallest of gaps between us, but in it was an entire universe. I traveled past a million stars to get to her, and when I got there, and our lips touched, I couldn’t even be sure that I was still in my own reality.
Then, when she let go off my hand, the summer sky started to shine once again, radiating warmth along our chilled lips. Oh, how the seasons would change when you were with her. A simple snap of the fingers and the sky would turn, the leaves would change, and the clouds would cry. It was love, even if it was only for me.
Dylan Martin is a University at Albany alumni who currently lives in the New York metropolitan area. His passion for fiction tends to gravitate towards the characters involved, and as such, his writing tends to focus on the characters as well.