The Great Valentine’s Day Balloon Escape

So, picture this … balloons making-a-break for it
while you watch from a line
at the dollar store
Everyone’s eyes are fixed on the scene outside
where a weary, middle-aged clerk is trying to help
a very impatient, irritable man
fit about 40 helium-filled, heart-shaped
Mylar balloons
into a mid-sized SUV, back door lifted.

The balloons resist.
Although they are covered with wishes
“Be mine!” “I’m Yours” and “Love”
their fondest wish is to escape.

 

They act belligerent and rebellious
tugging at their tethers, flopping around
not unlike 3-year-olds who pull at their mother’s arm
while waiting in line at a bank.
They are yanking and jostling their way
to liberty.

Only loosely gathered together by strings
they grab the edges of the car door
bully themselves upward, toward the sky
bump against each other like trapped birds
and the very impatient, irritable man
is not helping.
He is yelling at the clerk.

Everyone in line lets out a – gasp!
as the first balloon slips free
followed quickly by another.
When a group of three make their getaway
even the cashier turns
but you are all just bystanders
watching, helplessly.

Five more prisoners (of love) push their way out
sneaking off, hardly noticed, mid-commotion
as you and the other customers
begin discussing this historic mishap.

And just when you think it might be over
that it won’t be a total loss
another seven
vanish into thin air.

Finally the clerk
tired of being bullied herself
lets go of the rest
entirely
stomping back into the store
while the very impatient, irritable man
slams the hatch closed
and squeals away in his empty car
as deflated as those balloons will be
tomorrow morning, caught on some cloud
while the sun rises
on empty Whitman’s chocolate boxes
and drooping long-stemmed roses.

Later, as you leave the strip mall
and pull into the road you wonder
“Why didn’t I think to go out and help?”

As if in answer, you see far away
and high      high up
in the windy, gray sky
two gangs of silvery balloons
dancing the Valentine waltz.