How we Leave – by HILLARY UMLAND

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How We Leave

Hillary Umland



When the birthday balloons finally began deflating at my office desk, they did so in their own ways, distracting me from workday monotony.


When the first balloon, green and partially caved in on one side, began its demise, its skin became gum-like, a strip of it clinging to the surface of my desk as I picked it up. So I sat there, furiously scratching at the green strip with a fingernail, but the color lingered where it had lain slowly losing its breath for the past five months.


The green stain becomes a periphery mark on the left of my desk forever.


Parts of skin of the yellow balloon wrinkled, tightening like a belt around a waist while other parts stayed smooth, eternally youthful. It became discolored, tiny dark spots like teardrops splattered on its yellow skin, before it declined into its comfortable and quiet collapse.


The tiny blue balloon deflated as soon as I held it in my palm, giving up easily and compliantly like we had shared an unspoken and pleasant agreement.


Still, it slightly stuck to my flesh as I peeled it away.


But the last one, red and willful, kept its small and withering shape with its wrinkles and spots, holding out until I was forced to find a sharp pointed pin. Its fading rubber shell was tough and thick, forcing me to poke and pierce it again and again to break the surface. But it wouldn’t let go that easily, so I squeezed softly, smothering the possible pop from my co-workers’ ears, yet still it rebelled against my grip, sticking to my force, refusing to release.

So I keep it and wait for its end, the way we do with the complicated plants we buy with good intentions, the way we do with our helpless and ailing grandparents, the way we do with friendships passing their prime.


The way I did with us.


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***Hillary Umland is a writer of fiction and poetic prose currently living in Nebraska. She has been published in Unbroken Journal and Sick Lit Magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @hillaryumlaut if you like Top Chef and pizza. ***

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