by Susan DeFreitas

My work is a game, a very serious game. –M. C. Escher

A door opens onto the street. There’s a parade out here, a party in passing, and you’re just in time; the brass band has acquired a second line. The golden bell of a tuba flashes past, and a blueblack girl in a milkwhite cap catches your eye. She turns and kicks high overhead, and the pointed toe of her boot pierces the sky.

Pink confetti rains down around you—glittering, it gilds you.

Now your two staid shoes are helium balloons. Now your colorless umbrella is a kite.

Now a merman on a coral throne is leaning toward you, his slender hand extended, and lifting you lightly onto his float.

A door opens, and a one-man band parades past—a milkwhite man in a blueblack cap, a tuba around his neck. There he goes down the street, flashing his high hat and ringing his golden bell.

You make your way down the Royal Mile, searching for the chorale ensemble you heard from the castle, their voices high, like helium inhaled. The cobblestones are stained with rain, and you’re wishing you had an umbrella.

A pointed pain pierces your side. Now your boots are slick with blood. Now your colorless soul is floating off like a kite. Now Ethel Merman is singing from the silver screen; now all your memories flash past, gilded with grandeur.

A girl in pink sequins is calling for help. Either that, or she’s singing the Ave Maria.

Listen: The second line of that libretto lifts off lightly into the air.

A door with a brass handle opens, and you step in off of the street. A parade of stiff soldiers and staid dames, but as you stand there, searching, your golden belle flashes past. You shrug free of your blueblack jacket, hoping to catch her, but can’t find the coat check; you stash it instead behind a silver screen, where someone has deposited an umbrella.

Now your belle is laughing, as light as a kite, her slender hand extended toward a military man. He gives you a pointed look, and with that, all the gilded grandeur of the ballroom collapses, raining down around you like confetti.

All of this is actually taking place in a dive bar, with Turner classics on the TV, and tinsel left over from New Year’s. Your belle is stepping away from her major, a helium balloon clutched in her fist.

She’s walking toward you now, her colorless shoes barely grazing the stained floorboards.

You rise to the occasion, speaking your lines. You memorized all this long ago; the details change and rearrange, but your belle is always rings a bell.

Your voice is afloat.

You’re falling for her again.