Release by Matt Paul

My fiancé’s sister Marcie convinced me to come on the promise of catharsis. How it goes, she says, driving us to the park, dashboard fan parting her ocean of curls, is you write down something you want or want to let go of, set it alight, then feel your chakras smile as it floats away.

My wince must have made a sound.

Sounds dumb but it worked for me, she says, squeezing my hand. I hadn’t realised I was expected to participate. But it was coming up on two years since he proposed, fifteen months since he mistakenly trusted a walk now sign at a crosswalk, so I get it.

A dozen cars arrive almost at once, parking in a circle on the heat-bleached summer grass. They shine their headlights to symbolise the Summer Solstice, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. Marcie believes herself to be a sixties flower child transplanted into the modern world, a hippie in a Wi-Fi blanket. When she loves, she loves hard.

As her group converges and hugs each other with intent, Marcie hands me a lantern. She’s written ‘Live and let go’ in her stilted, childlike cursive. She gives me that look: cocked head, lips rolled back, the sympathetic forehead scrunch.

I let the paper dangle listlessly from my hand as I ignite my lighter and hold the flame close to the wax, daring myself to replace the lost puzzle piece when I’m not sure it’s time.

Marcie rubs my upper arm, her eyes bubbling.

Man, he loved you, she says, skipping off to join the whooping group as it prepares to offload their troubles.

I won’t let you steal my power again, one shouts, releasing her lantern, shaking her dreadlocks as if exorcising a demon. Hell no, sister, Marcie screams.

Life, love, and more raging orgasms, another interchangeable star child adds, banshee laughter rippling through the group. I feel the beginnings of a smile in my belly, but keep it there, safely stowed.

Screw it, let’s just go, someone says, and they all release at once, the amber sky shimmering in the collective heat waves.

Dance music starts up from one of the cars, activating an impromptu party.

Marcie watches me from the melee of limbs forming rhythmic, interpretative shapes. She thinks she knows what she sees, but I don’t know this me. Not now. Not yet.

I light the wax and hold the lantern in front of my face, the words taking on a celestial glow as if they have come from him, as if he would want this for me. The dread-locked woman bounds over, reaches up and delicately places a daisy chain over my head. She hovers, attaching herself to my indecision, her eyes wide and expectant.

I hold the lantern above my head, and watch the sky fill with luminescent jellyfish floating up through an inverted sea, praying I have enough kick to keep from drowning.

Useless trivia: Matt was thinking of the song Release by Peal Jam while writing this. Recent work can be found in b(OINK) and Cowboy Jamboree.

Image: Pixabay