Where She Is

Ella Lovac

She was in everything and everything was in her. Her hair blew into the summer wind, and she twirled, head thrown back, her youthful face radiating laughter, until she tumbled down and became nothing more than a swirling pile of leaves on the cold sidewalk.

The sunny field from my daydream faded and I jammed my hands deeper into my pockets. The gray cement world was more drab than ever. I screwed up my face against the chilly bite in the fall air until my eyes were half closed, blocking out the filthy storefronts I was passing. I kicked a rock on the ground, and it reluctantly skidded halfway across the sidewalk block before dropping, tired, to the limp grass by the road.

A howling wind picked up. It whined as it shoved repeatedly on my back, begging me to hurry up and get home so the world could get some much needed rest. I fell heavily into each step I made, each one becoming longer and longer as the downward slope steepened. Finally I reached my front door, which looked washed out in the gray light. I stood still for half a minute, staring at the door knob. Sighing heavily, I dragged my hand out of my pocket and gripped the cold metal handle.

Inside, the usual sounds of cooking dinner and NPR played, as if on a loop from the previous evening. I kicked off my ratty sneakers and climbed the stairs slowly. Even the stairs were tired, creaking under my weight. My bed engulfed me and I slid beneath the thick comforter. I hadn’t intended to sleep yet, but the exhaustion of the day had caught up with me, and I faded into the gray…

Her hand was soft and her fingers slid perfectly into mine. I reached around her waist, pulling her towards me. Her lips were soft and gentle and she tasted vaguely sweet, like the nectar in the flower petals strewn around us. The warm breeze blew a strand of hair across her forehead that tickled my nose. We held hands and twirled, leapt, and laughed into the evening. A golden light filled my existence, and I smiled in my sleep.

The next morning, I didn’t remember my dream. She was still gone, so it didn’t matter where she was or what she was doing in my head. I went about the day as usual. It was gray and cold like yesterday. It was drizzling.

On the way home, I took a detour to the park from my dreams. I hadn’t realized it, but I had only ever imagined her with me at the playground of the elementary school down the road. There was a large field lined with bushes, full of bulging hills and wildflowers where we shared our youth together. But she had taken Childhood’s hand and led him away from me, never to return. The flowers had shriveled and died with the end of summer. And I was left in a colorless world.

The playground was deserted. Mud squelched under my sneakers, sneaking in the holes. I hiked to the top of a hill and gloomily surveyed the ghostly play equipment rising from mulch islands on my left. I closed my eyes and let my head fall back, heavy as it was on my feeble neck. Raindrops alighted on my troubled features, and I opened my eyes slowly. Thick gray clouds overhead blocked out the sky. The sun, somewhere behind them, was emitting light that the clouds generously shared with me, glowing softly in their quiet, unassuming fashion.

I tentatively extended my tongue. A fat, juicy raindrop fell with a plock! on the tip, and spread into my thirsty mouth. Despite myself, a small smile stretched my mouth. Suddenly, I felt less like a visitor on this children’s playground. I unzipped my damp raincoat and tied it around my waist. I extended my arms and twirled. Rain speckled my face and hands and it felt glorious. I lifted my face to the heavens, and they opened up even more for me.

The rain fell steadily now. My raincoat had fallen off somewhere, forgotten. Mud splashed under my footfalls and I slid out of my shoes all the better to feel it. She was there. She fell as cold droplets on my bare arms, and she oozed between my toes. She grew in the grass. I cartwheeled through her, I ran, I spread my arms like an airplane and zoomed down the hill, falling at the bottom.

I smiled to myself and smiled at the clouds and the rain and the whole world. I smiled at her, wherever she was. And, from somewhere among the raindrops where she wandered, she smiled back.