Blue Sky

Don’t be alarmed. This is just what it feels like to have the sky kneel on your chest.

Oh, don’t be that way. Don’t look away just because it’s killing you. That’s ungrateful.

The only time you’ve ever seen a sky that color blue was a July afternoon in south Georgia. There were clouds, remember? But nothing like the fluffy cottonballs a child would draw to go with this Crayola color. There was an enormous V-shaped cloud, like an invading space ship, textured like a slab of sashimi-grade salmon, candy-pink along one edge and lichen-green along the other and cotton-candy blue itself, in the bulk of the shape, just because there really was that much blue to go around. Parallel octopus tendrils of cloud, inky against the impossibly bright sky, stretched over the horizon on the other side of the sky from the space ship. And between the clouds at the various edges of the sky, a blue so bright it hurt to look at.

How old were you then? Fourteen? Fifteen?

People came out of the tiny downtown buildings, weaving among the privet and yucca and tentative palms, to find you staring up at the invading sky, mouth hanging open like a drooling idiot. By ones and twos they looked up to see what you were staring at like that, with the same end-of-the-world look you have on your face right now, and, seeing what you were seeing, they stopped in their tracks and joined you in staring. Over the course of fifteen minutes, upward of fifty people, ordinarily on their way to climb into their cars and drive home and waste their evenings on television, had joined you in the early evening swelter on the various sidewalks of the little square, craning their necks to the sky. Like you were a seed for crystallization in a supersaturated solution of awe for the colors in the sky.

That would have looked cheesy in a Spielberg movie, yet that happened to you in real life.

Are you worried that you are dying? How could you possibly care about that right now? Look at that sky. Remember. Is there any last moment you could possibly have that would be better than this sight and that memory?

Do you want to think of your personal impact, the mark you made on the world, the way you might have changed things for the better? I just showed it to you. When you were standing there, staring at the sky. All of those people who would otherwise never have looked up. Who were just rushing to cars, to air conditioning, to television. All of those people, every single one of them, who have looked up at the sky a thousand times since, just in case. And caused those around them to also stop and look up. And maybe they saw something again. Something they otherwise would have missed. And caused others to stop and see. And so on, transmitting the tendency to pause and look for beauty to others. And them, to others. And so on.

That, you useless lump, was your peak. Forty-five years ago. You have never done anything to top that, nor could you. Nor need you have sought to. That was entirely sufficient to redeem an otherwise wasted life.

Yes. Now you’re smiling.

Smile, here while you’re dying, right arm clenched across your chest, too weak to double up with the pain. Smile. You’ve earned it. Smile as the sky darkens and grays at the edges, as your breath is crushed from you, as the cold spreads up your limbs from your fingers and toes and seeps into your back from the crushed grass, lying, as you are, in the only patch of grass available for a dog’s bathroom for blocks, a thousand miles and a thousand years away from that summer evening, where and when you redeemed all your prior and all your remaining pathetic years.

And there is your fanfare, you lump of discarded, cooling flesh: a lonely siren, playing you offstage.


January 3, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in fiction  


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