There are balloons, and then there are balloons.
There’s the domestic balloon, over which we shall quickly pass—the sad little sphere that you blow up at home, with your own laborious, why-am-I-doing-this carbon dioxide. A lot of pathos, for whatever reason, attaches to this balloon.
Then there is the irrepressible balloon, the balloon pumped taut with cartoon levity. A balloon of this sort is essentially an arrested impulse. A trapped prayer, if you like. Each balloon represents a thwarted attempt by that noble and high-spirited gas, helium, to fly joyfully up to heaven.
But the balloon doesn’t care. Brainless and glorious, it bobs about. Its urge to transcend is perfectly contained. Life is heavy, heavy, heavy. Since we crawled up onto dry land, gravity has been patiently dismantling us—we sag, we stoop, our lower backs hurt. Experience accumulates, and it has its own weight. Bring on the balloons.
I love the balloons that float like deities above the aisles in CVS, the balloons made of Mylar and ancient symbolism. These balloons are magic. These balloons, out in the world, will activate gratuitous nonmalignant forces. They’ll get you smiles, fist bumps, kisses, drinks. I once walked several blocks with a large balloon in the likeness of SpongeBob SquarePants surging and tugging over my head. People cried out, reflexively—they were glad to see him. (That balloon later escaped, and I watched SpongeBob recede, grinning, into the blue-eyed void of the sky.)