My wife once read me a story:
Simple rubber balloons do not live long enough to develop anything other
than a primitive desire to escape the squalor of this world. Usually they
lack the strength to do so and shrivel or explode. If they do manage to
escape, they do not pause to survey the view but invariably head towards
the sky. Singleminded. The blue of the sky and its vastness indicate that
the good life consists of upward mobility and vast tracts of unrelinquished
air. Once they reach the stratosphere, they are bewildered, gasp slightly,
and die. These deaths are mostly ironic for they are always on the verge
of having comprehended something profound and momentous.
However, our protagonists are of a different long-lived breed; you have
seen their type before: they are the impermeable silver Janus-faced kind
which keep afloat for days. In the silver side of each balloon, hidden in
the various reflections, lies a face. Silver ribbons were tied to each navel
and they were wrapped about a thin vase of roses. After a week, the birthday
girl cut them loose so they could drift about the flat. One blew curiously
from the kitchen to the living room and then to the restroom. The other
followed suit. Immediately, they understood the narrowness of their former
comprehension. Finally they pressed both their faces against the window
to see the sky above.
I would like to go out, one said to the other.
We will probably end our days here, said the second. Both were one-fourth
deflated and their silver crumpled. They could not actually survive the
wind. Still they pressed their faces against the screen. Finally one blew
into the kitchen to see the sky from that window. The other followed suit
but its fingers were caught in the hanging fern. Both felt the extraordinary
pain of separation.
"What does it mean?" I asked her.
"Sometimes I'm afraid I'm going to go away." she said. "I
don't know why."
"I don't know yet."
A week later, she told me that she was moving out. This was two months before
my thirty-seventh birthday.
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