There was always something different about Pinky. That was the name we gave to the helium balloon that I brought home from my 60th birthday party. Back on June 19th, 2017, the family and friends managed to surprise me with birthday barbeque at a friend’s home. Which was a pretty neat trick because I’d been moaning that no one had ever thrown me a surprise birthday party; not in nearly sixty years. But somehow they maneuvered it. But I digress, we were talking about Pinky. Pinky came home with a couple of other helium balloons but her brothers, as shiny and colourful as they were, just never soared as high or wandered as far as Pinky. She was a big, pink heart of a balloon with a mind of her own and soon I found myself talking to her.
“Stop dragging your brothers all over the house, Pinky.” I’d say to her as she caromed along on every breeze that wafted in through the window, her less buoyant brothers in tow at the end of their tied ribbon tails.
Soon the brothers faded, deflated and were dispatched to the keepsake box. But Pinky rode the air currents happily, still fully inflated after a month, then another month. One day, as I sat in bed reading and drinking a cup of tea Pinky sailed into the bedroom and floated down between me and my book and hovered.
“Go play somewhere else.” I said and, as sulking, she floated over to the open window and plastered herself against the screen. “No.” I said. “You can’t go outside.”
Another month went by and Pinky, now quite famous in our family circle as being the longest lived helium party balloon anyone had ever seen, still floated, still stalked us from room to room, still silently slid up behind me.
“Good Lord! Don’t sneak up on me like that.” I’d scold her when I’d turn around and find her staring me in the face. Actually one of the children mentioned the idea of drawing a face on Pinky, but somehow I found that a bit too unsettling.
One evening I fashioned a person in a basket out of paper to hang on Pinky’s string. If a balloon could be pleased, I think Pinky was. She seemed to sail throughout the house with more purpose and seemed to enjoy dangling her cargo so it would brush my face or neck. My quick slap (thinking it a bug) would raise a little breeze that she would dance away on, bobbing as if giggling at my reaction.
More time passed and finally, after three months we began to see a sag in Pinky’s ‘step’. Soon the basket and rider were too much for her to carry. It weighed her down to eye level until one day we removed it just to see her soar again for a while. And she did, but it was a short reprieve.
For a little while she began heading for open doors and we had to be quick to make sure she didn’t go outside, for who knows what would have happened to a balloon in the great outdoors? She would haunt us as we stood getting coats and shoes on at the door, as if sadly complaining that we were leaving her all alone, that she was old and we didn’t care about her anymore.
“Seriously,” I said to my husband one day “I almost feel like I should be arranging for palliative care for her.”
And now here it is, over four months since Pinky was inflated to life, and she is grounded. With only enough breath in her faded pink heart to keep her head up, she has come to lite on my pin cushion. It is a precarious place for a balloon, but I think sometimes she toys with the idea of suicide. Who am I to deny her her choice. She nods now in the air currents from the furnace vent and I nod back.
I will miss Pinky when she finally exhales the last of her helium.
Of all the presents I received on my sixtieth birthday, I think I will always love Pinky the best.