by Will Mayer
Just the other day, on my way home from meeting Sheila at our hotel room for what would be the last time, I spotted a street vendor with all manner of colorful Mylar balloons dancing above his head. I purchased one that was pink with a big smiley face on it and dragged it across the remaining blocks, up my apartment steps, and into my living room where Tasha sat playing with one of those wooden toys with the wires and beads on it—a maze we called it.
“Hey, Baby Girl,” I said as I paraded the balloon in front of her until she looked up at me and smiled with one of those smiles I had not seen from anyone else in so long.
Over the next few days she and that balloon were inseparable; Tasha dragged it around the house shouting “Ba-Boom, Ba-Boom,” and all but completely neglected her other toys as, over and over, she towed in the ribbon until the balloon was close enough to kiss and then released it back to bounce against the ceiling—each time the Mylar rising just imperceptibly slower as the power of the helium inside waned.
It got so wrinkled that even the cartoony smile crumpled into apathy as the balloon floated no more than a couple feet off the ground, twisting in the current of the air conditioning in a nauseating fashion that made it impossible for me to look at it for any length of time. Even Tasha found it impossible to care about it anymore, and she went back to playing with her sturdy toy maze that for some reason reminded me of her mother who beamed at her from over the back of the couch.
All the while, the balloon kept twisting, trying to catch the light on its foil face, as if screaming, “Look at me, you bastard!” and I thought that I never wanted to look at it again.
But, for hours, while I watched my daughter play lovingly with her maze, the face wouldn’t stop straying into eyeshot, peering at me from over the top of the couch or smiling coyly at me as it drifted on air currents in between us. Until finally, feverish, I leapt across the room and clenched the ribbon as if strangling it, pulled my pen knife out of my pocket, and popped it.