[Note from author Virginia – This is a fictional story, but it comes from a very real place for me]
I was just looking out my window at the drizzly courtyard outside my dorm, seeing instead the street where we used to dance in the sun, and wondering if you still like orange popsicles. That day is still technicolor bright in my mind. Your strong little hands pushing me as I flew higher and higher on the swing, my protestations that this was too high, you crazy girl! The green sky and blue leaves cavorted and spun above me, and I could smell hot sun in the air. Then, suddenly, the loss of gravity as I Ieft the swing, the rush of flying, the thrill of falling, and the cacophony of crashing limbs as I hit the ground. A moment after, you landed beside me, and I heard the peals of your bell-like laughter as I rolled you over, and we wrestled in the sticky green grass. Just as I had you pinned and was about to extract my prize from your strawberry lips, you froze, alert to forces in the universe that I could not sense. Then, somehow you rolled out from under me. I was left, confused, in the grass, as you bounced above me. “C’monc’monc’mon!!” you entreated. “Ice cream!!” And, helpless as always in the face of your overpowering joy, I stood and followed as you raced off down the sidewalk.
Sure enough, an ice cream truck was parked two blocks away. After the young children who had swarmed the truck had obtained their fudgesicles and rocket pops and dispersed back to their pools and trampolines, you hopped up to the window, and bought two popsicles. Blinded by the light of your heaven-sent smile, the young man driving the truck gazed at you with something like awe. I slung an arm around your waist as we walked away, just to be sure he knew that angels were rare things. You were too absorbed in your treasure to note the effect you had on the human world, as you ripped off the wrappers and handed one popsicle to me. I took it in my free hand, and examined it. It was an orange creamsicle. I hadn’t had one of these since I was little, when I was six and you were five, and even then I worshipped you. Your chocolate colored eyes gazed at me as though the world hung on my shoulders, and I smiled at you as I licked a corner of the popsicle. “It’s perfect” I said. You grinned all the way across your face, then laughed, and called me silly for being so cautious. You took a big bite of yours, and I watched your face as you savored the sensation. Eyes crinkled around the corners, nose scrunched up, lips turned up at the egdes as you delighted at frozen, creamy treat.
It took me a few minutes to realize that we weren’t walking back to your house, but I never asked where we were going. I had a feeling you wouldn’t know either. The popsicles melted on our hands and chins even as we raced to eat them, and when they were gone we held sticky hands and laughed at how childish we were. The heat of the day broke, and still we walked. As light fell from the sky, you grew calmer and calmer, transitioning from bubbling over with happiness to radiating a joyful calm. The suburbs we lived in seemed to go on forever. We walked past houses, parks, corner stores, and the occasional intersection. Eventually, just as twilight fell and the sky turned violet, we reached another park on the very edge of the residential districts. Here, the houses were smaller, and farther apart. The plains this city was built in stretched out in to the distance, and a few sunbeams still reached up from the horizon. I sat in a swing and pulled you in to my lap. We gazed off in to the fading light, as soft breezes brushed our arms and faces.
“Where do you think we’ll go?” you asked, tucking your head against my shoulder.
“I don’t know.” I replied, and leaned down to kiss you. I could still taste orange, ever so faintly on your lips. We sat and watched the edge of the world until the sun was fully gone, and the sky turned black.
I thought then that by the time we were twenty-three, we’d be in India, or Spain, or Guatemala. I always assumed that I’d be where you were, because that’s where I always was. I used to think about you every day, wondering what had become of you, where you were, if you remembered me as clearly as I remember you. Eventually, I thought of you less and less, until now, when it’s been weeks since I last thought of you. Everything is grey here. I’ve got one picture of us that I found in an old notebook. You’re about ten, and I’m eleven, and you’ve got your scrawny little arm thrown around my neck, even though I was already six inches taller than you. My hair is a little too long, your tank top is a little too small, and both our faces are grubby, but your smile remains the same. I miss it.