Sunday, June 2, 2019 • Short Stories
Darling Series: Run Away with Me
Darling, won’t you run away with me? We’ll go East, where they don’t know our names.
We’ll fly there, we’ll be migrating butterflies and the blue oceans beneath us will be fields of iris and forget-me-nots—and you can tell me about when you were a fuzzy caterpillar in the spring—until we land with sore feet in a faraway land. We’ll step from the plane and remove our butterfly wings and the sun will be rising and the earth will be warming like a breakfast griddle. I’ll carry your bags so you can rub the sleep from your eyes, so you can use your big wide eyes to spy the big wide world waking.
We’ll find a place on the coast where the coconut trees lean and the sand gets in our toes and we can throw stones in the sea. The waves will roar in the night and I’ll hold you and whisper stories about the stars in your ear. In the morning it will be like we’re new people again, little kids on Christmas morning and this life the brand new bicycle we always wanted; and it should always be this way, so that’s how we’ll make it. We’ll pedal through our lives together and let go the handlebars. Let loose your curls, wrap your arms ’round my waist—I got you.
We’ll jump a bus and it will take us through the jungles. All the poor people living, children in rags and parents worn to the nub, and you’ll be sad at seeing them there, you’ll want to help. A little girl sits in the mud with an empty bowl and you’ll want to cry out to her and tell her to go home! But no, there never was a home. We’ll swoop through the shaggy-haired hills and it will begin to rain, the raindrops upon the roof fall soft as crashing paper planes, and the bus riders will begin to sing a village song. Their heads will bob to the beat, voices rising and falling as we bump over the road. So your heart will be healed its small tragedies from before, from all the times before, and you’ll grasp the cuff of my jacket, roll a thumb across a button, and listen to them sing.
We’ll have lunch at a tea shack along the road. A mother on a stool and her wide oil pan going fritter! fritter! fritter! and we’ll chew and taste her family’s traditions, while her young children fly Skittle-colored kites over the rice fields. She’ll say her oldest is far off at school, which worries her. You’ll hug her, she’ll smile at you, and with a doughy finger she’ll point us to a train.
The train will go up into the mountains. Chugga-lugga-chugga it will go! Leaves on the tracks, leaves falling and floating down, telling stories to other leaves, stories they’ve heard on the wind about ancient weather and ancient wilderness that once upon a time covered the globe. They’ll tell stories about young leaves that wouldn’t green and old leaves that wouldn’t let go and with a rushhhhhhh their stories will blow apart into a billion crumbs and be laid to final rest and forgotten. A leaf through the window will land on your nose, and I’ll take it and put it in my book for safekeeping, its story now mixed with ours, for a little while caught in our whirlwind.
So high this train will go, up where the air tastes of eucalyptus and licorice. Snow lies in the cracked elbows of the craggy mountain peaks, the river a strip of glass in the shadowy valley floor far below, the train puffing smoke in the purple bruised sky of twilight—up we’ll go. You’ll rest your hand in mine and you’ll look out the window at the life meant for you, and you’ll remember when you were a child with pigtails and played on the living room carpet with your toys and felt alone. It will be a photograph with worn edges sticky with candy stains… this is how it will feel when we look out the window.
You will sigh and the train will sigh and stop. Sighhhh. So cold up here, you’ll say. We’ll run in our bundled coats crunching mountaintop gravel beneath our boots and—hurry!—we’ll reach our little cozy cabin tucked away and I’ll shut the door fighting great blizzard gusts and you’ll be laughing and tumbling on me.
We’ll build a fire, the ceiling timbers glowing warm and your thick wool socks crisscrossing mine. We’ll make tea and wrap ourselves in a quilt made from the fabric of old dresses worn by local women long ago. The fire will spark and outside the forest will moan. We’ll miss our parents then, our brothers and sisters, our friends, and in that high place atop that far-away mountain you will cry and your cheeks will reflect the flickering fire light. I’ll wipe your cheeks with a corner of the quilt, a patch of blue cotton, from the skirt of a woman who never left her village but had eye wrinkles from happiness. And without knowing I’ll say to you what she once told her youngest daughter long ago, which is, You have more strength than I’ve ever known.
We will fall asleep then. You’ll dream of a house made of clouds and bath bubbles. You’ll sit on the house’s front stoop and float away, free to go wherever you please, parking your little cloud house above wonderful places, lowering a rope ladder for brief excursions, or simply sitting on a rung and feeling the breeze. While you sail the globe, while you dream, I’ll use my snores to keep the bears away.
So won’t you run away with me, darling? We’ll live us a little dream.
(Note: This was part of a little two-part Darling series. Check the other part out here.)