It feels like there are so many people in this city – flowing out and falling through every turn, alley, street, corner. The city is not just pulsating with energy, sound, and light – but with the millions of heartbeats, of the millions of people: passerby’s and those who call it home. Today I needed the city to be a little empty, today I needed to carry twenty balloons across the city. Helium ones – you know, to make my life harder. And no, this wasn’t for a kid’s birthday or some cutesy proposal at Central Park with a horse carriage and rose petals. This was for me.
Balloons are strange, in a way always associated with celebrations. We fall in love with them as children; reveling in the latex smell and their ability to take our breath away, literally. Every person has some fond childhood memory that contains some version of a “…and then we had a balloon blowing competition on my eighth/ninth/tenth birthday”. As adults, though, balloons can teach us about the harder things in life. Balloons are temporary; we know this when we buy them. They are temporary, yet we take the greatest care to make sure they don’t get hurt or pop. We know they are temporary, and we love them anyway. Balloons by their very virtue, have the potential to float away from us. Just slipping through our fingers as we try to hold on, leaving us to watch them from a distance. We know all this when we buy them. And we buy them anyway.
Balloons, I think, teach us the science of letting go.
“I’ll take twenty please”.
“Yes, helium please… okay, I’ll wait half an hour”.
“40 dollars? (!!), here, okay thanks! I’ll be next door”.
At the café, next door, I was thinking about last night, when I’d decided to bring a bunch of helium balloons to release at Bryant Park. I knew if anyone who saw them would think they had escaped some celebrations. Knowing they were released and didn’t escape, made me feel like I was colluding with the Universe on this somehow.
“Whose birthday are you buying them for?”, it was a boy I’d seen at the balloon shop.
“Why do you think it’s for a birthday?” He seemed to linger on this question, I could see he was thinking hard – not able to think of any other instance balloons are required, “well, because balloons make birthdays great!” he concluded.
“I’m actually buying them to release them at the park – no birthday – just me letting them go”, I leaned in towards him as if we were sharing a secret.
“You want to just release them?”, he whispered back, incredulous.When I nodded to agree, he asked, “what if some fly away before you get to the park – you can’t control them sometimes”. Before I could respond he added, “or what if…when you get there, some don’t fly away. They just sink to the ground”, he was clearly enjoying this.
“I guess, what you’re saying is that I can’t really plan this?”, I looked at him in mock surprise. He shuffled his feet and whispered, “you can just be ready for it – whenever it happens. It’s fun watching them float away.”
Where was this kid’s mom, anyway?
I had hoped today, Sunday morning, would’ve had fewer crowds on the street. I looked like a discombobulated mess, fighting the wind, and trying to keep my balloons together, and not run into the many, many, many, humans packed on the sidewalk. You’re probably thinking “why doesn’t this girl just hail a cab – she’s in the city of cabs!”. But I tried – the summer sun heated up the cab’s door frame so much that I lost three balloons as soon as the rubber touched the metal. So, me and my seventeen balloons were walking the crowded streets towards Bryant Park. Some places have significance, not because anything of note happened there; no tremendous moment, yet it stills holds importance. That’s why I chose this park, to release them there. I was a block away when the wind picked up, as though with an agenda to take the balloons from my grip. The ribbon grazed my hand so slightly, and then it was out of my reach — leaving my hand outstretched. I watched the balloons float on, standing out starkly amidst the glass and metal buildings. I heard someone point out the balloons, calling attention to others. For a few moments, people – tourists, locals, policemen – stopped to look at the group of yellow balloons floating against the skyline.
I guess you just have to be ready for it – whenever it happens. And try to have fun watching them float away.