He put the lawn chair outside, in front of the window with the peeling paint. It fit better in the grass than it did inside on the green shag carpet, and then he didn’t feel so alone. He was joined by the people walking by, the birds in the neighbor’s tree, the thoughts he couldn’t let himself think inside, where they might get trapped against the tobacco-stained ceiling, like balloons after the party. He sat there in the lawn chair, drinking beer and feeling correct, trying not to think about what would happen when the weather turned cold.
They told her she could color between the lines, that it would make her less anxious.
But that is what drives me to make change, she said, and she took a thick black marker and drew her own line, one that crossed through sets of intricately meshed shapes from one side of the page to the other.
The observers had no protocol for world-alterers. If she will not comply, we cannot fix her, said the doctor in charge. They turned away from the drawing girl and her worried eyes.
Step right up, said the hawker, his front teeth crooked and black. She curved her hands around both eyes and took the Midway in small, round portions. Only then could she handle the lights shooting down the ferris wheel’s spokes, the glowing faces on the haunted house, the cavalier swing of the pirate ship.
The only thing you should be doing with those hands is holding on to your tickets, the hawker said, and she refused to acknowledge him. She could smell the cotton candy, and it filled her with sweet, sickening dread.
She found herself once again standing in waist-high mucky water, pushing around a red plastic tugboat. The clouds washed by above her, as if the whole world were made of fluid, and her choice not to grow up made as much sense as anything else.
You can’t stay in there forever, her sister called from the banks of the pond. Her sister, who had chosen to go to college, to get married, to have children, to constantly furrow her brow. You’re not a mermaid.
But I am the captain of this ship, she muttered.
When he was young, he asked his mother to replace the chairs in his room with suitcases. I can stack them up and sit on them, he said. If they’re packed at all times, I’m always ready to travel.
She obliged, taking him to thrift stores in search of cheap suitcases. His room began to look like a left luggage office.
What if you can’t take them all? she asked one day. There are so many here.
But I am already on the voyage, he replied. I haven’t had to leave anything behind yet.
On a rainy day before I saw you for the first time, the fog on Mt. Tam turned trees to silhouettes, sucked details into its gaping, white mouth. I stopped to look across the mountainside at one lone tree that has seen many storms. Still, it grows.
I thought of that tree as I watched your pixelated silhouette for the first time. You were curled, more shape than self, growing.
There’s the heartbeat, said the doctor, and I laughed, delighted by the only detail I needed.
He spent their vacation taking videos of the mountains. He watched his footage in their hotel room in the evenings, while she drank glasses of wine and read her book on the balcony.
She grew impatient by the third day, angry that he was filling up their camera cards with high definition files.
Why not just take a photo? she said. It’s not like they’re moving.
Oh, but they are, he said. It’s just that they move slowly. If you wait long enough, you will see what I mean.
This story first appeared on 100 Proof Stories+, a new publication I’m curating on Medium. If you want to tell stories in the 100 Proof style and have photos to go along with them, I’m accepting submissions for this new venture.