The sun gently lowered to the earth,
Faintly peeking through the translucent cream curtains,
Falling upon their joined, speckled hands.
Swaying together to a classic,
They held each other with surprising strength,
Ignoring the angry protests of their shoulders and knees.
Daily responsibilities and worries faded away -
Nothing remained but the feeling
Of matted carpet under their toes,
The smell of cranberry and dust and mint
Lingering in the air, and the warmth radiating
From their bodies covered in muted cotton.
Despite the insistent ticking of the grandfather clock,
The two shuffled at their own pace,
Having been lost for too long in each other’s embrace.
It was Sunday again.
Joyful anticipation filled the air
As he dramatically reached into the closet, which was embedded
Between bright yellow walls lined with sunflower trim.
He whipped out two checkered neckties,
Presenting the two similar but altogether different patterns
To the fit of giggles sitting on the floor,
Telling her this decision was one of the utmost importance.
Carefully inspecting each tie, her young but careful eye
Discerned the size of the checks, the different hues of blue and gold,
The faded blue of her father’s shirt that didn’t quite match either option.
After a moment, she shoved her chubby finger in the direction
Of the one that took her fancy.
With her head held high, she marched out of the yellow room,
While her father put on the opposite tie.
He was almost there,
So close to the gleaming white finish line,
Even though he would be the last to cross it.
Blood pounded in his ears while
The sun’s unforgiving rays continued to beat down on him,
Plastering his hair to his drenched skin.
His legs felt like jelly, his feet were on fire, his arms were mere seconds away
From falling off his body;
He wanted to quit.
The fifth hour was slowly approaching, but the gray concrete seemed to endlessly
Spill out in front of him, taunting him, telling him to give it up already.
He started to slow.
Suddenly, he was jolted from his despair by shouting.
Looking up on the other side of the finish line,
He saw his wife, skin tan from the sun, holding their young daughter in her arms.
Both of them yelled at him from where they stood several yards away,
Screaming words of encouragement.
“You can do it!”
“You’re almost there!”
The shock was quickly replaced by newfound adrenaline.
His arms and legs felt a little sturdier as his feet continued
Pounding into the pavement, determined to reach his new goal,
As they continued to cheer him on.
The night was dark and sticky with heat.
The wind blew in through the open windows and tangled our hair
As I stomped on the gas pedal,
Going twenty over the speed limit on the deserted back roads,
No other car in sight.
The clock read “10:01 pm” in neon green, and the air was permeated
With the greasy scent of cheap burgers and soggy fries.
I looked over at my best friend in the passenger’s seat,
Her mascara dried into her cheeks and chin,
And watched her scream along to the radio,
Her broad smile in full view.
I turned my attention back to the pavement, the corners of my lips turning upwards,
And continued to race down the empty road,
No longer caring I was missing my own birthday party.
It could wait.
She clung to the pendant hanging from her neck,
The latest gift she received from her grandmother.
It was decorated with an intricate gold design and hung delicately
On a thin gold chain.
On the verge of tears, she embraced her grandmother gingerly but eagerly
To the steady beeping of the heart monitor,
Careful of her pained elbow injected with an IV and shrunken body,
Desperate to let her know how much she appreciated her beautiful gift
As surely this would be her last.