I stared across the window and glanced at the street.
Hair like that of a thicket. I would have lost my way into the deep bewilders had I been a cricket. Little freckles muddled her face. Like those on some mushrooms that grew in the wilderness or among the weeds near the pond. Father said they can't be devoured and shouldn't even be touched, their poison might kill us.
Was it the same with the Balloon Woman?
There she stood, from morning to night.Every evening she would narrate unusual stories to the kids from the park. Well, the park was full and one had to wait for their turn at the swings. Why would the kids leave such a tempting offer for some crazy stories? I wondered, as I tied the red ribbons to my hair, making a perfect bow like the wings of a little crimson butterfly.
Then I fluttered from the kitchen into the front porch of my house.The enchanting smell of incandescence sticks still filled up my nostrils like a pond flourished and full from the first spell of rain.
I untied my hair in the bus, not fearing the 'untidy' remark and the shame it would bring to my mom. It somehow never felt free and 'alive' with those tight, strangling knots in my hair.The long thick twirls tangled in the wind sending a feeling of guilt down my throat, as if the knots had shifted there now. Though the wind washed them away again, with the gruesome feeling. I tied my hair up again, giving in to the wind, or guilt or maybe some other stifling emotion.
As the bus stopped in front of Anita's house, where the Balloon Woman was now, she waved at the bus to all the kids, except me. I never waved back. I never liked the balloon woman.
She was dirty, filthy and maybe had lice in her thicket like hair. She ate soiled dirty pieces of bread without butter or jam on it. Father said she was poor but nice and worked very hard, and she never begged.She told funny stories of her once lavish life in Calcutta. She made friends with the women through their kids so that she would get little scraps of worn out make-up from them for herself. All she gave in return was maybe a free extra balloon from her weary old hands, frowning a little but hiding it. Though I could sense it from the window. She would grab the make-up and tacky old jewelery from them just like I grabbed at Ice-cream.
I loved but one thing about her, the lovely colorful balloons that danced from morning to evening in the bright blue sky.They were a part of the Balloon Woman's identity. They brought smiles to little kids faces, but when the balloon woman blew them she looked tired and exhausted. They were to last just for a while.
These days I don't see her. I miss her and her little colorful halo. I asked father if she floated along with them to God and he said yes. I asked him if God had sent for her or if she went on her own accord. Father said God needed such souls up there, in the bright blue sky above. Ones who loved and lived with dignity and gave random acts of kindness a try.
The children will miss her stories. She is one wonderful story herself.
Balloons never fascinated me but that evening after school I bought one Red balloon. I went home and wrote my heart out with a little sparkle sketch pen "Sorry Balloon Woman & thank you for being so kind."
Then I ran up to my terrace and let the balloon fly up with the wind. The red slowly became a haze as tears welled up my little eyes.
From then on, I try and give random acts of kindness a try. I shared my New Bedtime Story Book with my classmate in the bus on my way back home, helped mom set up the table for dinner and hugged dad for the Ice-cream.
I also shared my guilt with mom and said sorry to her for leaving my hair untidy and pretending to not know how I got the remark every week.
She just laughed and kissed my cheek.