He enticed me to Charlottesville with a promise of a group hiking trip on Sunday.
The emails between work colleagues painted a picture of a jolly group ready to discover the wilderness around the picturesque college town.
I was excited to be gone from DC and its relentless humidity, eager at the promise of being out in the beautiful August air, enjoying a last-minute weekend with my beloved and his friends, and ready to stroll about the town and experience something new, such as the briny oysters we gingerly gulped down (after receiving kind instruction from the waitress).
But I was definitely not expecting Sunday morning, when, groggy-eyed and sans breakfast, I signed a piece of paper with lots of bolded sentences detailing multiple ways I might die and sat down in the van beside my boyfriend, with more questions than he wanted to answer in the air and more unknown couples surrounding us.
“A hot air balloon ride?”
Is this safe? Did you research it? Statistically how many people die each year in this contraption? Do I need to wear my hiking boots? Why am I the only person wearing a dress? Will it be cold? What about the bottles of water we left in the car and if we both die who would know that I wanted to leave everything to my sisters and
There he was, the first volunteer to answer the pilot, battling the insistent breath of fiery air on his back as the rainbow fabric inflated and I watched safely from a distance
and there I was, in my cute dress and… hiking boots
and there we were, a group of strangers enclosed within a basket the size of a kitchen table and somehow happy about it
bracing for take-off
pulled upwards by a magnetic force
into the stillness
a quiet that I have never known pervaded the sunrise ascent
the only sound we heard from earth was the occasional bird chirp,
and our only heavenly companions were other balloons
We could see our reflection below us, and the wonder in the early-rising children’s eyes
Above us, only fire and fabric
Safe in our contraption of fire, air, and fabric and the trusty hands of our pilot
At moments skimming the tree tops
almost fearing the inevitable ensnarement in the leaves
But emerging unscathed.
After a glorious hour in the air, it was time to touch down.
Although the balloon quickly deflated,
our spirits didn’t.
In fact, just over an hour, a breakfast, and a short walk later,
we were the happiest two people in Charlottesville,
and maybe even the world.
Let the journey continue!