Helium

My father asked me a peculiar question when I was seven years old. He said, “Would you like to release your ballon into the air?”

My expression gave him an open invitation to analyze my thoughts. I can still, decades later, feel the contortions of unbelief pulling at my facial muscles as my grip invariably tightened around the piece of string which tied my new treasure to me for what I wished would be forever.

Still, my father, ever open to scientific experiments and opportunities, continued. “We could put a card on the ballon for whomever finds it. They could contact us, and we could see how far the helium travels….”

His invitation brought me no desire to comply.

This balloon was mine, and I wasn’t about to give it away, or let it fly away, off to some distant land containing some floating message in a (latex) bottle.

Within days (or possibly even hours), what was once so importantly elevated above my head was reduced to barely floating along the baseboard line of my childhood home.

During some moments now, I regret the emotions of that experience: the want to cling to everything I felt was mine, the power I afforded this small object (allowing it to rule my selfish nature), the temporary lift of helium.

If I could repeat that moment, I would write the message. I would attach my words to the balloon, and I would let go.

I would watch it rise toward clouds, a spot of brilliance among tufts of cotton and sheets of azure.

And I would wait to see what would happen.


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