A Commemoration of Serenity - creative nonfiction by Joy Dalyshad
I remember bare heels on warm concrete—rough and gritty, but oddly soothing, like sand between my toes. My shoes, carelessly discarded, tangled together under one of the tables in the reception hall, stood out as two solitary, still objects among a whirlwind of moving bodies. The night was one of celebration, in stark contrast to the afternoon’s ceremony. I’m sure the traditional practice of carefree, uninhibited liveliness following an event with a certain level of gravitas is intended to be a reprieve. That evening, however, the festivities loomed before me as an obligation.
I’ve never much liked dancing. I’ve never much liked weddings, either. I have no melodramatic sentiments against celebration, but gatherings of any kind mean crowds, and I have always keenly sensed the pressures of socialization. On that particular day, the thought of artificial smiles and false politeness made me inexpressibly tired. The mental strain had tugged at my concentration throughout the church service, the drive to the reception hall, the wait in the lobby, and the elevator ride to the top floor. The wedding dinner lost its appeal, the toasts their heartfelt charm. Little spheres of light, strung up everywhere in an attempt to provide quaint illumination, only reflected dozens of glittering, gaudy ornaments on wrists and necks. Laughter and the clinking of silverware grated against my ears until the speakers took over, their incessant thrum clashing against the singing mass of hoarse, wild voices.
I remained as long as I could in my sanctuary—a deserted table isolated from the chaos and revelry—but within ten songs even this small relief was taken from me by well-meaning relatives. My wish to be left alone was met with stubborn encouragement as they pulled me into disco, hoping to see the dancing queen, young and sweet, that every seventeen-year-old girl must want to be. For all intents and purposes, their superficial aims were realized, but four minutes under the harsh spotlight had driven my thoughts toward escape. One door, literal as well as figurative, captivated my attention.
My mother had been eyeing the balcony just as I had, glancing at it as the night went by, waiting for a time when we could claim the space as our haven. The chance came not long after my unwilling dance floor debut. The alcove was empty at last, and beckoning, its pull almost as tangible as my sister's hand, leading me forward in response to our mother’s suggestion that we seize the moment.
My brother rushed past all three of us, his quick little feet narrowly missing my exposed toes as he careened, heedless of obstacles, toward freedom. When I set my hands against the door to ease it open, palms facing the glass above my brother’s head, a childish desire to adopt his carelessness bubbled up inside me. Weighing expectations against instinct, I glanced over my shoulder only once before taking my first step onto the balcony.
I left all poise behind. The silk of my pant legs rustled gently in the open air. Mild heat painted a flush over my cheeks, stretched in a relaxed grin as I watched my siblings dash to the railing in front of me. I followed them leisurely, wanting to absorb every drop of atmosphere. Sleepiness dulled the city lights; bright greens, reds, yellows, and blues danced together behind my eyelids to create a softly glowing kaleidoscope, the smooth black of the sky spilling into every gap.
In my ears, too, the world strummed its harmony. The streets below were empty, calm, shielded from the usual din of city life by the remnants of a concert stage. Other night sounds wove with the occasional note from the dance floor inside, muffled and mellow after seeping through the glass doors. My brother’s excited giggles spilled into the symphony as our father lifted him to see the view. Mother and sister, standing close by, shared their favorite facets of the scene, pointed fingers caressing the shadows.
I leaned against the railing, content to watch them. I let memory capture the picture as thoughts filtered lazily through my head, none demanding notice. Imminence had no place on our balcony. Time itself seemed to linger, to wait for me as I breathed each separate moment in. Face tilted toward the sky, light, frizzy waves of hair blowing across my forehead, I marveled at everything and nothing. What I remember now are the little sensations, and how, in each, I experienced true contentment for perhaps the first time. Simple, but overpowering, the night and its revelations rest in the hollows of my mind as a breeze, waiting to carry me away once more.
Joy Dalyshad is a homeschooled high school senior living in the Midwest. She is a passionate long-time writer and musician. She enjoys sketching character designs and spending time with her family. This is her first publication.