The view from above is how high? He tries to remember the layers, five spheres of pressure and gasses. Counts each paper lantern as it rises. Finds the beat, then the words. Tropo. Strato. Meso. Thermo. Exo. Temperatures falling, rising. Funny the things you retain. Though classifications are meaningless when you observe the view from above.
Birds eye is the level, he decides. Unscientific, a class of its own, but a level where the details are still observable, the emotions still present. Though for how long? He can’t say. Though he feels it, that he rises, just a little higher, just a little further. He floats, rises, and watches Janine as she rubs her thumb along the wheel of the lighter and tries to get the flame to catch. She thinks there may be some symbolism as it fails to take hold.
She doesn’t want to float either. Doesn’t want to rise and be carried by the breeze, directionless. She wants to stay grounded, pinned by the heavy certainty of gravity, his hand in hers, keeping her fixed to something. That’s all she wants. But when she looks around to find him—which she still does, she is not used to things as yet—she never thinks to look up.
Finally, the flame takes. She watches the lantern glow then rise, and is surprised how quickly it enters that blue zone where indigo deepens to black. It makes her shudder, forces closed her eyes as she feels the breeze on her cheek, warm air blowing in from the west, and she imagines the lantern as it is pushed eastward, and wonders how far it will travel. Imagines a figure in the darkness, hours from now, standing on the shore of Lake Erie. The flickering light above the water, blurred, an illusion, “Let’s pretend they are fireflies” not understanding this reimagining voids dreams, prayers, and wishes.
Over water, air cools, flames extinguish, paper disintegrates and falls as ash. Fish, mistaken, rise to the surface, and bite, but find nothing. He stands on the shore watching and asks, “What did you wish for, Janine?”
She opens her eyes. His voice, the moment, briefer than a second, ephemeral, almost unsensed, like the touch of a breeze on your cheek on a warm summer night. A wish, a dream, a prayer. Something caught after all, was carried back to her. Something of him. Up there and out of reach, beyond the indigo.
But eyes open, she sees what is there. A field, dusk falling to darkness, voices, whispering, mourners faces lifted to the sky, gazes shifting from sky to earth, lanterns floating, gone. Every one of them, alone.
And above Lake Erie, only darkness.