Amy Fruchtman 9/10/05

The Balloon

Everyone needs inspiration. It's what provides the blueprints for our future. For me, inspiration hit me like a pile of cement bricks. But just as fast as it had hit me, it was taken away. My inspiration was Mr. Martin, and his funeral tore my blueprints to shreds.

That was years ago, though. In fact, it was exactly 4 years ago to this day. Now, as I climb the coldstones of this abandoned elementary school, memories rush back to my head. It wasn't my idea to explore the building; I just can't say no to my easy friends. I felt determined at times to gain their trust, being the only girl among us. They respected me.

"You need any help, Amy?" Bob called as I dangled from the dirty window sill. Jumping down the rest of the way, my feet hit the dark, glass littered floor, echoing back to the ruins. The others were far up ahead, already climbing the broken ladder we had found out back. One by one, step by step, each of us warily inched out way up to the plank of wood to the second floor. I never trusted that splintery plank for a second.

"Try not to touch the walls." Josh called to me as I lifted myself from the last step of the ladder to the ledge. Standing up was the hardest part-it felt like the ground floor was a thousand miles down. The wooden floors reminded me of when Mr. Martin would let us brainstorm on the wooden playground outside, bringing warmth to my heart.

He taught me everything I wanted to know about writing. It became my passion. Though I always had a problem with writers block, he always offered help. "You can write about anything," I remember him telling me once, "Anything your creative heart desires, Amy." He'd pick up a random object in the room; one time, he had given me a red balloon. Placing the string in my tiny hands, he explained that it wasn't just a balloon-it could be anything. It could be the key to a toddler's soul, the symbol of joy of an amusement park, the reason one would continue to live…I ended up writing a 3-page story about that one balloon, and I've never had writers block since. That man had opened me up to a whole new world.

Crossing the plank, the other boys ran up the crooked stairwell. Patches of light rayed through the boarded up windows like a movie projector shining on an empty, dark screen. Exploring this place was almost a sting to my memories. The day of Mr. Martin's death was still burned into my brain, as fresh as it was years ago. I looked down at my hands that once held that balloon, now dirt covered and grey. I traced the lined indents in my palm. It hurt so much to see him leave.

I put on a façade in front of my friends. None of them had ever even heard of Mr. Martin, and it was no time to be getting upset. I never truly learned how to put the past behind me, but they didn't need to know that. I tried my best to just forget about it, at least for right then.

"Check out the chalkboard!" Bob shouted, calling the group of kids over, I could see the boys surrounding it, murmuring under their breathes. Approaching the chalkboard, my heart came to a complete stop.

On the chalkboard, which seemed freshly washed and drawn, was one lone balloon, floating up into a pit of clouds. Perfectly round, with the glint mark shining in the chalk's imaginary sun, the balloon seemed peaceful and alone. I reached out to touch it, swiping the balloon string with my fingers. Looking down at my gritty hands, the chalk seemed to have a rusty red tint. The very same red scrap of rubber I had held in my grimey, sixth-grade hands was inscribed on this board, floating up to Mr. Martins new home.

Ever since that afternoon at the old, abandoned school, I made peace with the past. Mr. Martin might be gone, but he'll always be with me in my heart. We looked all around the school that afternoon, but didn't once find one piece of chalk that anyone could have drawn on with. Whoever drew that on the board that afternoon re-wrote my blueprints. And thanks to that balloon, they're indestructible.