2 September 2004 | Vol. 4, No. 3

Helium Balloon

My boyfriend is a helium balloon, way above me, gently tugging at my hand. His head tosses in the breeze, craning whichever way the wind blows, his neck long and flimsy. I tell my friends how jealous this makes me—that he's looking at other girls—and they say I am being silly.

We haven't been a couple for very long. When we take a shower together, I find him elusive, but also frisky. He bobs about, to my front, my back, slipping around my neck, perhaps trying to find my good side, some new approach. And in bed he is restless, but I quickly learn to tie him to my big toe and keep him down where I want him. He gets whiny when I cuddle up next to him, a bit prickly with static. But I am patient, never wanting to appear too needy.

Mostly we take walks together, and people smile happy smiles at us. Clearly we are an attractive pair.

One day, when I come home from work, I find him in a corner, bent against the frame of our closet, saying he's glad I am home; he'd been climbing the walls waiting for me. I blush and tell him he looks hungry, and we go out for dinner. They always bring us a cupcake with a candle in it, and sing. This is a running joke—the making of fond memories, I think.

Some time passes; friends begin to ask what I see in him. I tell them how handsome he is. They say he is always blue. He's dark blue, I correct. So dark, and so shiny, that by even the faintest of light I can see myself in his eyes. I tell them what a good listener he is and how he hovers patiently while I ready myself for our dates. Cheesy, they say, he's full of hot, stale air and getting old quickly.

This is true about getting old. He has more wrinkles every day and seems hunched at the shoulders, nearly always tired now. His eyes are not as bright as they once were and my reflection looks stooped and withered. But now he lets me kiss and cuddle him without complaint. I think that a good trade-off. He walks next to me, rests his wilting self on my shoulder, sometimes asking me to carry him, and never swoops or swerves to look at other girls. Not anymore.

About the author:

Kate Milliken lives in Los Angeles, California. She holds an MFA from Bennington College, works as a freelance writer, and is currently the Los Angeles Liaison for Post Road Magazine (when she's not volunteering for the superb folks at the 826LA.org after-school program). Kate's stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Pearl, Folio, Flyway, the Southeast Review, the Santa Monica Review, and elsewhere. She can be reached at .

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by Kate Milliken at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 4, No. 3, where "Helium Balloon" ran on September 2, 2004. List other work with these same labels: fiction, flash fiction.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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