“Have you ever wanted to be a thing?” she asks, her eyes wide and expecting.
It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of being something other than human. Most days, I’m quite happy being a complex constellation of thoughts and emotions and occasionally, home to one or two indescribable inner phenomena.
“What do you mean?”
Her face scrunches up, thinking. Then, she points to the sky. Too bright, too blue, and scorching my retinas.
She shakes her head, pigtails swaying with the movement.
She points harder, her hand moving to follow something.
It’s a black plastic bag, stark against the summer sky. It is flying higher than the tallest building, dipping and soaring, flailing and being blown away towards the harbour. It’s drifting, drifting…
Maybe it’ll even stick to the masthead of one of those sailboats. All the while uncaring of the business of humans below. Unconcerned by the clinking of coins, the rustling of bills. Or the man shouting through a megaphone that you get 2 pizzas for the price of one in the next hour. The whirring of the slurpee machine, blending a rainbow of colours and the condensation gathering on the outside of the clear plastic. The crowds of people trying to enjoy their Saturday. Café-goers sitting by the terrace, one leg on top of the other, loose and content, sipping on some cold thing as the wind ruffles their hair, threatens to pick up their large hats. Or even the thick, black fumes of vehicles and the mellifluous yet angry “Dring! dring!” of a bicycle bell caught among car honks.
“You want to be a plastic bag?” I laugh.
Her pudgy little face scrunches up again, growing red and angry this time.
“Hmm, I wanted to be a clear plastic ball once.” I tell her.
She peeks at me, as though giving me a chance to redeem myself. It’s not everyday you get the chance to impress a child, you know. At least not intentionally.
I don’t know why I still remember though. That clear beach ball. We’d lost it in the summer of 2004 to a roaring ocean. We were playing catch in the sand, right next to the sign that said “Dangerous bathing”. And then the ocean breeze caught the ball mid-throw and it disappeared in the froth of the sea, between the large, black rocks. Afterwards, we could see it drifting ever further from the coastline, reaching for the horizon. There was no saving it, either. We could just watch dolefully as it went away.
“It’s strange, but I still think about that ball sometimes.” I muse.
And it’s true. Many times after, in class or on the bus, I caught myself thinking about where that beach ball could have reached. Only later did I consider the possibility that it could have burst. But it didn’t matter long, that idea. The image of it drifting away was stronger than any imagined truth.
By now, my little companion has forgotten all about her grudge. Her eyes are twinkling, focused on some blank space, living the tale of the departed beach ball.
She grips my hand suddenly, tugging on my sleeve.
“And then! And then! What else did you want to be??”
I laugh as we walk away into the city, navigating the cobbled roads.
“Well, once, I wanted to be a parachute…”