Paper Hearts

Eliza moved into the new apartment complex opposite my own drab building. She started at my school but we never spoke; the different shades of our skin made certain of that. I studied her whenever I was able. It was her eyes that always held me transfixed; they were an amazing splash of green, swirling and ever-changing as tide pools at dawn. In their depths lay a sadness that I could never quite reach, no matter how I tried.

On the day I saw her crying by her open bedroom window, I felt the weight of the slate sky overhead press down. I had never before seen someone so forlorn. Although I lived a tattered, hand-me-down life, I dressed in smiles and was clothed in laughter. Eliza was always impeccably accoutered but I’d never heard a laugh cross her lips.

As I sat watching, she glanced up and our eyes met. Instead of looking away like she did at school, she held my gaze while unheeded tears fell. I was in a rowboat, being dragged into a maelstrom. Everything in me urged me to dip my oars and pull back before I was caught in the whirlpool. Yet, I resisted and stayed with her until the storm blew itself out. Finally, when there was nowhere left for it to run, I saw the cause of Eliza’s sorrow laid bare in the depths of her eyes.

I signaled for her to stay by the window and quickly gathered supplies. I worked diligently on a red magazine page, then folded a newspaper into a plane and loaded its precious cargo. Once I was back by the window, a flick of my wrist launched it out over the chasm between our worlds.

Eliza’s eyes traced its arc as my plane gracefully rose, then seemed to hang on a breath at the apex. Inside that pause, I lived and grew old in a world devoid of colours; I married for love, raised children who knew how to draw pictures in clouds and laugh until their bellies ached for release. As the plane descended, its cargo released, to fall as heart-shaped rain.

Laughter drifted like wind chimes at dusk and a sliver of sunshine broke through dark clouds.

Ryan Stone

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