I woke up this morning and looked out the window. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Something big and blue was gently tapping against the pane…the second story window pane.
I blinked sleepily, hand fumbling to recover my glasses from the nightstand.
My Mickey Mouse alarm clock crashed on the floor, making me flinch. Glasses now snug on my face I inspected the blue mystery again and half smiled. A bright blue balloon patiently waited for me to open the window.
Curious, I flung the covers away and opened the window,careful to move as quietly as a mouse. A long, white ribbon attached the balloon to one of the lower branches of the lemon tree next to my room. My eyes scanned the area, but there was no one there. I tugged at the balloon experimentally. It was firmly tied to the tree. Not only that, something inside it rattled gently. A message in a balloon?
I considered going outside to untie it, but daddy was probably already in the kitchen, on his third cup of coffee with a hint of vanilla. I tugged at it again, thinking. Maybe I could bite through the ribbon. A few minutes later my teeth hurt and the ribbon looked ragged, but would not break. Frustrated, I considered popping the balloon, but daddy would probably show up, his dirty black and blue sneakers making that annoying squeaking noise.
Suddenly I remembered mom’s travel sewing kit.
After closing the window a little bit, to trap the balloon inside, I crawled under the bed and slowly took out the shoebox I kept hidden there.
“Hi mamma”, I said softly.
Filling my head with the mystery of the bright blue balloon, I quickly opened the box and took out a tiny, delicate pair of scissors. In no time, the balloon was free. I quickly pinched the balloon where it was tied, and cut the knot off, slowly letting the air escape. After carefully cutting a bigger slice of the balloon, I took out the folded piece of paper.
There was one message on it: “I feel so alone”.
Frowning, I turned the paper over, looking for more, but there was no more.
I looked out the window again, this time at the house next door. I knew a family had moved there recently and they had a kid about my age, but I had never seen them. It had to be that kid.
“I feel so alone, too”, I said out loud to no one. I got a pencil and quickly wrote on the back of the paper: “Me, too. Want to be friends?” I bit my lip and before I could chicken out, I stuffed the paper and pieces of balloon in my pocket and ran down the stairs. I mumbled a good morning at daddy’s dirty sneakers, ignored the smell of coffee and had breakfast. All I could think about was getting outside.
When daddy finally went to lock himself in his basement office, as usual, I went to the lemon tree and tied the paper and bits of balloon to what was left of the white ribbon.
I locked myself in my room like I started to do when…
But this time I waited by the window. All day I waited, pausing only for lunch and dinner. Then I got so sleepy, I lay down on the floor in front of the window. When I opened my eyes again it was the next day and my glasses were lopsided on my face.
I stood and was delighted to see another bright blue balloon waiting for me. After repeating yesterday’s ritual, I quickly unfolded the new, crisp piece of paper, this time with a lot more writing on it.
“Sure. But you won’t want to be my friend for too long. No one does. I’m not a happy person.”
My heart beat a little faster and I replied: “Then we’re definitely going to be great friends. I’m not a happy person either because…my mom died. And I hate my dad. It’s because of him she’s dead…”
That’s how our friendship began. I wrote all about the way my mom got sick with cancer after she and dad had a big fight and how she died a few months after…and how I couldn’t cry for her. I wanted to, but it’s like I forgot how.
My new friend told me all about the loss of a best friend. They were not talking anymore and it was so painful because they had been best friends forever. But apparently it was a big misunderstanding and neither of them knew how to talk to each other.
I sat there with the last letter, reading it over and over. What could I write back? That I understood? That I knew how it felt to lose someone so close to you? That at least they were both alive and could work things out? That life is too short to waste on misunderstandings?
Instead I wrote: “Let’s meet. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be waiting for you in front of the lemon tree.”
Hands trembling, I tied the letter and bits of balloon together and went to sleep. It would make the afternoon go by faster. When my eyes opened again, I couldn’t believe it was morning!
I ran down the stairs and out the door. It was late enough that daddy was already locked in his office. A bright blue balloon waited for me today and my heart started to hurt. I guess I won’t be meeting anyone today.
Angry and disappointed, I popped the balloon and unfolded the paper.
“I’m right here. I always will be.”
I heard someone’s soft footfalls in the grass and looked to the left. A pair of clean black and blue sneakers stood there patiently.
For the first time in almost a year, I looked up from those shoes.
For the first time in almost a year, I was able to cry.