A few days ago, the bosses in my office decided to get a bunch of us balloons thanking us for our “excellent work.” My balloon had the words “you’re SPecial” on it, a sentiment that I don’t believe in general, much less when it comes from my employers, whether it’s in pseudo-camel case or not. The balloons had to be out the door by the end of the day today (company rules), but instead of popping it (like some of my fellow employees did), or giving it away, or releasing it (I don’t get off that easy, neither would my balloon), I decided to bring it home with me.
Bringing my balloon home with me involves a slightly complicated process, depending on the route, that involves letting it float from one island (Manhattan) to a different city on an even larger island (Brooklyn). I could have hopped on the nearest subway, kept my head down, my balloon protected, and I would have made it home in less than an hour. I wasn’t going to let myself off that easy.
I tied the balloon to my bag and proceeded to walk down Park Avenue for about a mile until I got to Union Square, where I paraded it around it a bit while listening to music very loud on my ipod, not making eye contact, not caring about other people’s reactions, or whatever anyone would decide to shout at me. Instead of hopping the subway there, I decided to keep escorting my balloon through Manhattan. If it was going to spend the rest of it’s life cooped up in my apartment in a land foreign from where it was born, I might as well show it what sights I could walking above ground on the 4/5/6 line.
I walked the balloon around, took it to Astor Place (see picture 1), did a lap with it around Cooper Union (if my balloon were human, maybe it would want to major in structural engineering). From what I noticed, I got smiles and stares; one woman stopped me, but she wanted to bum a cigarette for a dollar (which I declined but she insisted) and made no mention whatsoever of my fellow traveler, which I appreciated.
Wanting to get out of the sun, I took the balloon down the the Astor Place 6. I made the transfer to the 4/5 and It got snagged one some old guy’s bag and became untethered at Fulton Street. The guy stared at me and I think said something, but I couldn’t hear with my headphones, so I just shouted to him, “IT’S A FUCKING BALLOON,” which maybe made people uncomfortable, but escorting this floating ball around Manhattan distanced me, somehow, so much from what was going on around me that I didn’t care. I eventually made it back to my apartment.
What struck me the most about walking around with this balloon, which, really, is why I’m sharing this with you right now, is how vulnerable, yet somehow invulnerable, I felt this afternoon strolling around with a silly, fragile thing tied to my person. It was therapeutic. Eventually, I felt as though somehow I needed to do this, to protect this balloon. Every step I took, I felt as though I was daring some stranger to try and kill it. I could have lost it at any point, especially when its string got severed, but I held onto it. I wonder if I would have felt sad. I could have popped it, but I didn’t. I’m typing this with some weird sense of accomplishment.
I probably won’t keep you updated on the status of my balloon. It’s entirely possible it will fade into a kind of obscurity like the rest of the curios I have in my apartment: one more piece of trash that I can’t find the courage to discard. I feel like I’ve said too much. This isn’t what you want. Feel free to discount my words. We will be back to regularly scheduled programming soon. I’m only doing this as a weird kind of homage to someone else on the internet who has a lonely balloon (you know who you are. Apologies for not mentioning you by name.) that’s still clinging to whatever helium it has left inside of it, giving you explainable emotions.
And now that’s what I have: a lonely balloon that I’ll try to understand, that time will eventually drain of all it’s spirit and it will eventually wrinkle and sag, remain lonely, drop from whatever heights it’s trying to climb to to leave an empty shell on the ground, that, if it’s lucky, will be remembered fondly by those who have to keep going. Just like you and me.
Notes & Observations:
-Dish soap outdoors? What an unexpected image!
-“Pur.” The logo pops out, especially against the sickly green liquid inside and blue border. Light reflects off of the p like the light of a new star, like the brightness of our hopes and dreams.
-“Pur.” Curious spelling. No e. Perhaps hinting at the state of “pureness,” but not quite achieving it. A dishsoap that admits its own faults, perhaps suggesting to us, the consumer, that “hey, we can’t do everything.” A surprisingly humble consumer good.
-“Pur.” Curious spelling. No “e,” perhaps this is cultural.
-Green, the color of certain apples, the color of plants and grass, yet not necessarily the color I’d associate with “cleanliness.” Other things that are colored green: mold, rotting flesh, envy, the dollar bill in your pocket, your ex-girlfriend’s eyes.
-Magnet. Obviously, this symbol is included to indicate the ability of this dish soap to pull the grease away from pots and pans as if by magic. As to where the grease goes after that, however, the package design is not so clear on that issue. It almost seems unconcerned. [Return to this thought later: magnets are nature’s magic.]
-Apple. As symbol: knowledge (Bible), love (Greek mythology, Trojan War). From these examples, the introduction of an apple into a narrative seems to both be a harbinger of bad things to come, yet also the catalyst for the plot itself. Curious.
-Apple. The scent of the dish soap.
-Formula F52. I’m wondering how this numbering system works. Are they implying that there are were 51 other formulas that didn’t work and this one did? Or, if the other 51 formulas worked, why are we using this one? If so, why so many attempts? Why so many formulas? It’s just dish soap. Then again, it also implies a certain degree of hope, that science is as—if not more—valid as religion. It may not have the answers that we humans seek, but it will have solutions. That there are 52 formulas should indicate to us, specifically those Doubting Thomases of science among us, that we need not fear. Things will get better, it promises us. Global warming will not kill us. Science will find a solution, while the gods we plea to do nothing.
-Blue cap. Only there so the rock does not overwhelm the composition.