Jonas jumped off the worn metal bench as soon as he saw the balloon catch flight. It was a warm breeze that opened its arms, smelling of salt and pink flowers that bloomed in a garden not far away. He had been on the bench for hours, watching toddlers wander through a desert of sand, infants in their strollers electrified by the world above, young mothers pushing swings and sharing weary smiles of happiness with their children.
He sat there waiting, needing inspiration of some kind, an inspiration to do something he could only fail to describe. But he waited, understanding his need. This was where he turned to in times when he grasped for something, and since he lacked the ability to understand what that something was, he came to the place where little creatures acted instead of thinking.
The park was a constant teacher. Crying, young laughter, the tinkling music of an ice cream cart, old tears that quickly turned into shrieks of delight. Those little legs and arms, they all moved without rationalization or intent, it was pure movement released from the invisible binds of causality.
He needed more of what they had, what he had lost along the way from infant to man. He was constantly stuck in his mind, a rotating wheel of four thoughts that shifted in color and shape. Four different thoughts but he understood them to be the same. To escape, he came to the wide-open lawn of soft grass, to the world of sand and slides and swings. He watched carefully, always open to the possibility of newness, of great teaching.
Over the course of an hour he kept a careful gaze on a short dark haired boy in a stripped shirt and tiny tan shorts. The child was barely a few feet tall, but his eyes were of an ancient stone, something created only once in a century. The eyes of the gods looked out from the body of that little boy, searching the greenery of the neighborhood park, looking up into the fluffy clouds of an otherwise clear day, at the other children in various moments of play.
The young boy held onto a nylon string from a tethered orange balloon. From the bench where Jonas sat, he had focused increasingly on the small pudgy hand of the boy that was smeared with chocolate stains. Jonas watched the hand of the child, willing that hand to open, to give him a guide to follow.
Jonas felt a breeze on his back and a slight rustling of his dark shaggy hair, momentarily his eyes diverted from the hand of the child and darted to the left, to nowhere in particular, they just darted away as his body was overcome by the feeling of the breeze.
When he looked back up, the youngster was looking at him. They held eye contact for just a second, and in that time, Jonas saw dark mountains and red trees and rivers that flowed with blue and white foam. He was called back from the vision when the child’s hand opened, releasing the string and the balloon on its leash.
The balloon drifted easily away from the boy, content now with a new task. Jonas gave a quick nod to the boy, knowing that a guide had been sent. He jumped from the bench and walked towards the sidewalk that delineated the park from the street.
The balloon drifted away from the playground and the screech of children skidding down warm metal slides and the watchful eyes of young mothers with bulges below their loose shirts. None of them could see the door open and follow quickly, both because of their physical limitations and the children they were tending, so it was only him that was free enough to move from the worn green bench, him that had not just the luxury of time and open eyes, but the ability to act when a god released its guide.
Jonas followed the balloon in its path down the green lawn, over the stairs and then down the sidewalk. They moved into the world swiftly, he with absolute devotion, absolute certainty that this was the path to walk, that he would be shown things that needed to be seen, that he would hear music and horns and conversations wanting to be heard.
He managed to keep up with it until the edge of the park. There along the street, late morning traffic was moving along at a lazy pace, the hot sun glaring down on windshields and the people that waited behind them for a green light. He looked briefly into a dark blue car, noticing a young woman at the wheel. He wondered where she was going, what she was thinking about behind tinted glasses and frosted lips.
When he looked back into the sky, realizing his deviation, he saw that the orange balloon had befallen the grasp of an old tree on the corner. Or maybe it was resting, he couldn’t tell. The balloon hung onto the very thin outer branches, as if awaiting another signal.
Jonas stared up at the orange guide, and while he did, he sang. His body was straight, his arms were at his sides, his head bent backwards keeping the balloon in his sight, watching attentively until it would be time to move again.
As the song progressed and his heart began to open, his arms started to sway. His head and upper body began to rock gently, the melody integrated with his muscles and he moved like he was the song. It was long, an old ballad his father used to sing every night as he walked the perimeter of their farm and locked all the gates. The old man had once said that his father had sung it as well, walking the same land, tending the same perimeter. And now, travelling through the generations, it was that song which had embedded itself in the heart of Jonas. It came to him in dreams. Came as he walked down sidewalks, when he needed to catch what his hands could not grasp.
Two young mothers pushing matching strollers approached him on the sidewalk. He knew where they were headed, going towards a god they would not recognize. He turned to them slowly as he felt them approach, he turned to them with a smile on his face, the lyrics still on his lips, his eyes overcome with emotion as he saw their moving bodies, the young skin of their cheeks and the infants watching the sky. His eyebrows were dancing as much as eyebrows could, his eyes, dancing as well. He directed the song to them, to the two young women walking towards a god they could not see.
“Solo mi amor.”
When he was a boy, listening to the love songs of his father, he had understood that lyrics were a vehicle for emotions that had no names. And so he looked at them, the two young mothers, letting the words carry his love towards these women who would perceive him as a stranger in the park. He was their fool, their lover, their servant.
The words were not important, they merely gave shape to something else, and he let that something else come from someplace deep inside, move up through his throat gathering conviction and strength, up into his mouth, gathering a bit of sentimentality that spun the notes slightly, adding a glossy sheen.
He sang it for them until they made eye contact, one smiled shyly and the other looked away quickly, diverting her eyes to the ground, a little embarrassed by his attention. He smiled with the song on his lips as they passed. Then he took a quick breath and turned his attention back up to the balloon, which was just beginning to catch a ride on a light orange-scented breeze.