‘Wild Ponies & Pink Flamingos’
by Kea Isaacs
When I look at her, my mind is immediately filled with an image of two horses on opposite ends of an open field. They charge with all their might towards each other, hooves striking the ground beneath them with a thud so powerful it announces their savagery. Dust flailing in the air like their restless souls free from their shackles. Their manes dance with the wind and capture the very essence of a wild pony: freedom. But the dust blinds the view in front of them, and all of a sudden, they collide like a train wreck. But all I hear are violins. Two restless souls whose pace does not match that of the steady world around them, now run side by side. Their freedom forever binds them. We were fools in thinking we could live extraordinarily in an ordinary world, turned to mere mortals by our very environment. We could not foresee that once tamed, a wild pony can never be released back into the wild.
He sat opposite me at the dining room table, dishevelled, with his spiky hair in the air as if he’d experienced an electrical shock and his face all crinkled up from being pressed into a pillow. I watch the man I once loved light a cigarette and puff its smoke so nonchalantly, you’d think I had entered the multiverse: an astral projection of me with an invisibility cloak watching him; his eyes fixed on the morning paper as smoke hovers above him. We existed in a place where time and space were objects bound to the limits of our imagination. Unfortunately, my imagination happened to be as minute as the ash falling from the tube and onto the glass surface. We floated through eternity in seconds; somehow five years had shrunk to minutes and travelled to this very moment. Who am I? Who are we? What have we done to each other?
The lashes from my weakened eyes, as I blink the morning into a clearer vision, send a force so strong across the room; it burns a hole in his face. The inferno lifts him from his trance and our eyes meet. He’d sensed I’d been watching him. He always had a talent for sensing the smallest things about me, just as I had always had a talent for observing him. It’s what we do.
‘What?’ he asks, ash tumbling on the table.
Silence fills the empty room as I study him: Cinnamon skin, piercing hazel eyes and a brunette beard wrapped around his chin. What an incredibly gorgeous man. A cup of Italian coffee hovers in front of my face, shielding me from the embarrassment of being discovered. The aroma of the Robusta bean, rich and earthy with a certain purity to it, punches my nostrils and travels through to tug at the strings of my memory. I recall the summer we sailed the South of France on the Santa Armena – his anniversary gift to me. He had suggested a getaway to re-visit the place from which our love blossomed. I would consider those the happy days because we cared enough to allow ourselves to love each other and be loved in return. A vivid image plays in my mind of the sunshine’s kiss on the clear Mediterranean water. The Alps in the distance towered over each other – not even God himself would dare creep up from behind them – and offered the sort of seclusion only abandonment could. And although I was surrounded by many staff on the vessel, for reasons unknown to me, I recall the sheer loneliness I had felt.
Pist. Pist. The particles dance in the air and land light as a feather on my skin; the cool shielding me from the sun’s blaze. I close my eyes for a sense of peace as I lay back on the zebra striped beach chair on the lower deck. Still, I could feel a strong pair of eyes on me, their gaze sending powerful waves of judgment and overall discontentment. The Chanel shades rest on my nostrils as I observe him standing above me on the second deck: A cloud of smoke puffs from his mouth at the speed of a turtle’s crawl, masking his face from my view and mocking me in the process. Finally, the smoke begins to clear and I see his mouth: ‘O’ shaped as it empties out more smoke. His hazel brown eyes catch the ocean’s light from the sun’s shine and illuminate his soul to me. Blink. Blink. I remain paralyzed by his gaze as our eyes play a cat-and-mouse game. What are you thinking? Blink. Blink. What are you playing at? Blink. My teeth sink into my crimson painted lower lip as I lust at the sight of him. His hand moves to his mouth and cups the cigarette, igniting the tip marigold. Another cloud follows, this time hollow, imitating the expression on his face as I watch him turn his back and leave. In the distance somewhere, muffled gaggling sounds of some sort fill the quiet of the Mediterranean. Resting my arms on the metal railing and my chin onto them, I steady my vision in the direction of the violent nasal honking. A flamboyance of flamingos prance across a field painted a pink and red hue by my imagination. They move with the precision of a surgeon’s hands: one foot in front of the other, not skipping a beat. Their erect bodies strutted as if the whole world were watching, with their heads in the air attempting to avert the world’s eyes. I nearly wept at the sight or maybe at the realization that they imitated us. We pranced around in our bubble of a world with the flamingos’ precision, one foot in front of the other, never missing a beat because what would they think of us if we did? We kept our noses in the air, showing off our nice things and concealing our faces from the watchful eyes, too afraid they might catch a glimmer of the truth hidden behind the façade. A truth we ourselves did not know existed, and that was far worse than admitting unhappiness: not knowing that you’re unhappy. I found myself standing over the railing with knuckles white as snow, considering being one with the sea creatures.
‘Go for it!’ a voice yells from the second deck.
I look up to face him, the sun blinding me with its shine and pronouncing his silhouette. His arms dangle over the railing and the glare from his silver Rolex – my gift to him – glistening like the ocean, blinding me further.
‘You only live once. Go for it!’
My attention shifts to the diamond sea water in front of me, and think nothing of it as I let go of my grip. Free-falling into serenity, the ocean’s tranquil arms wrap themselves over my floating body and muffle the outside. For once, I feel at peace. Gosh, I wish I had stayed there.
‘Hello?’ My husband, in the present, yells for my attention.
Awakened from my nostalgia, my eyes creep up from the pale coffee mug hiding my face and plant themselves onto him. I can tell that he can tell that I’m still somewhat lost in the waters of the Mediterranean.
‘You know what I was thinking about?’ I return the mug to its saucer.
‘Wild ponies and pink flamingos.’
Startled at the sheer randomness of my statement, he returns to his scorching cigarette; taking a long drag from it and releasing a slow dance of grey smoke. This time I was not clouded by it; everything was crystal with his deafening silence.
‘You used to call us wild ponies. Born to run. Restless and free. What have we become?’ I ask.
‘What the hell is that supposed to mean?’ he asks, offence swimming in his voice.
‘We’ve just turned into flamingos. Prancing for the world. And for each other.’
‘Well we’re not children anymore. We had to grow up eventually,’ he says.
‘Do you remember the summer we sailed Europe?’
‘I do. I remember seeing flamingos in the distance and thinking, “wow, they’re so…’’,’ I pause, taking note of his disinterest.
‘Beautiful. I remember thinking they’re so beautiful.’ I force a painful smile on my face as silence hovers between us.
‘Five years. Some would consider that a success. Do you?’ I ask.
I continue to watch him as he puts out the cigarette bud and takes a Jurassic Park-sized bite from his croissant.
‘Do you remember what you said to me just before I jumped into the ocean?’
‘I don’t know. Yolo? Sounds like something I’d say.’ His words muffled with the mixture in his mouth.
A sad grin forms on my face as I look down at the silver Cartier band on my left hand. Forever. That’s what it said. Forever a fool. Though last night’s celebration had been a blast – black-tie evening wear, champagne flown in from Paris and fireworks in the back yard to complete the spectacle that was our marriage – I was ready to retire my tap shoes and cue the curtain call. Or so I thought.
‘You’re right. You only live once. We only get this life to be happy. No other.’
‘What are you trying to say?’ he asks.
‘Do it before it’s too late.’
‘Wait.’ He slams the sandwich on the table. ‘Are you leaving me?!’
I take a deep breath in and allow my eyes to wander outside where the pool is filled with balloons from the celebration. Floating in a festival, uninterrupted, they reminded me of the flamingos: steady.
‘Do you love me?’ I manage, barely a whisper.
‘What kind of a question is that?’
‘If this is the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, then we cannot lie to each other. That much we owe ourselves.’
‘Do. You. Love. Me?’ I stress each word.
And as if we were on Santa Armena and we once again allowed ourselves to love and be loved, my husband whispers:
I turn my head to face the balloon party in the pool as the paintbrush of my imagination bathes the sky with an eerie orange and pink hue. The trees and forest as the backsplash of our home are coloured grey, resembling a classic film.
‘Do you love me?’
My mind and eyes still fixed on the fairytopia image in front of me, I manage to whisper:
My wife’s words do not wound me as I watch her look out to the world to which we once belonged. A leaver’s lullaby once said, ‘There’d be no such thing as leaving, if just loving somebody was enough.’ Why do we remain? Perhaps we’re too scared to face the unknown, for once tamed, you cannot release a wild pony back into the wild. The vulnerable animal would be met by the same scars that prompted its gallop, and I’m afraid that would be far worse than the soul’s demise in the mundane.
As if it were a symbol of release or perhaps a mockery of the people we’d become, we watch as a pink balloon lift itself onto its sisters and be carried by the wings of the wind. Inch by inch, drawn out, it moves further away from our reach, its dance tugging at the shackles that bind our hearts.