In every gymnasium I have ever been to, whether it is at a recreation center, athletic club or school has a ball or balloon stuck somewhere in the rafters. There is never very much of a story behind it, but everyone knows that it is there. Kids and adults tried in vein to knock it down for months or even years. And eventually, it does come down. The helium and static abate and let it float to the ground or the natural vibrations of the court game below are enough to push it from its perch. Yet, whenever the ball or ballon makes its way down, it is a mere matter of days before another gets lodged in a new place. It is an equation of sorts within this space. If you have one gym, you require one ball or ballon for getting stuck. Its a 1:1 relationship that cannot be sacrificed because it will throw the entire balance of the gym off.
Without the ball up there, kids who are too bored to watch what is happening will not have anything to contemplate. Without the ballon’s string getting wrapped around those steel beams, adults will not have something to get conversations started with.
Everyone asks how the ball got up there. And we start to make up stories, even if we know the truth. We tell each other about amazing competitions gone by or little children who wept when the ball didn’t come back. These are innocent deviations from the truth and we all perpetuate them because we know that the relationship of one ball to one gymnasium must be respected.
Really, we know that the ball looks down on us and protects us. It makes sure that the scrapes and pushes aren’t too bad. It makes sure that everyone says “Good Game” after they are finished. The ball is benevolent. It doesn’t pressure us into playing our best, it merely suggests that everyone will feel better if they do. It is flawed by being up there and it represents this flaw to everyone watching. We do not have to be perfect. We just have to be witnesses.
My belief in the balloon that floated up the rafters never waivers. It is steadfast because of how special that balloon gets to be. It is the symbol of that event that gets to outlast everyone else. It is the after after after after party. And it continues the pageantry even as it shrinks and shrivels up and hangs on by the string, just waiting for the non-existent wind to tug it down. The balloon is sacred. It is the memory of a moment and as long as we let it hang there, the moment will not really be in the past. While it hangs there, we can speak about it in the present tense.
We need balls and balloons up in the rafters. They are reminders that things exist after of our little games and events. They are the ones that know when we cheat and they are the ones that see when we succeed. They may not say much, but they know when a good day is had.
I know that any time I walk into a gymnasium and there isn’t a ball or balloon waiting for me in the rafters, it is my responsibility, and the responsibility of everyone there with me to make sure one finds its way up there before we leave. This relationship is too vital to be put off for too long. We all need our guardians and our cheerleaders. We all need something to just watch us. Watch, and not judge.