Cloud Painting

Posted on: January 14, 2016

The day Ada and I ride up to The Lookout is transparently clear. The Lookout is a large hillside that faces and guards over the town of Southmeadow. It’s totally a make-out point, but Ada and I visit it because it’s the best place for cloud-watching and stargazing. The air is fresher and sweeter up here, and there’s a tempting sense of freedom that calls to Ada on the days when her mother is drowning in a boozy swirl.

My excuse for leaving is to accompany Ada, because the first time we came up here, she had shown up on my doorstep, soaked to the bone from a storm, and commanded, “You’re taking me away from here.” The Lookout was the place I took her, and it continues to be our escape whenever she feels her blood sing.

I park my parents’ old Volvo underneath a low-hanging tree, the only shady spot on The Lookout. When we stop a few feet from the edge of the hill, I drop to my butt and lie back, folding my arms beneath my head, but Ada lies perpendicular to me and rests her head on my belly, the weight of it warm and comforting.

There’s a patch of my stomach exposed from where my shirt has ridden up, and her hair, draped across it, tickles my skin. It’s nut-brown, short, and bobbed. I pull one arm out from under my head and card my fingers through from root to curly end. I can tell it’s been recently washed. It’s soft, softer than I thought it would be. Discretely, I pull a strand up towards my nose and take a tiny whiff. Cranberries.

The dull roar of an approaching plane brings our attention to the sky. We watch as it emits a stream of cloudy condensation.
Ada points towards the moving speck and traces its path with her finger. “Sometimes,” she says, “I like to imagine that I can paint the sky. The stars, the clouds, the sun. I hold up my finger and follow them like this, and it’s like my own creation. Makes me feel like I’m God, or something.”

She doesn’t look at me when she says this, concentrating on using her finger as a paintbrush. I move my hand from her hair, strands sifting through my fingers, and place it on top of hers. I cover her finger with my own, and the two of us trace over the plane’s flight path all the way across the sky, until it’s out of sight. When we can no longer see it, Ada intertwines her fingers in mine and kisses my knuckles. The quiet is comfortable, but after Ada’s confession (and that’s what it felt like, a confession, something secret she has been holding close to her heart), I feel like I need to share something personal of my own.

“So,” I start, “when I see planes, I think about all the people on it, about who they are, where they’re from. Sometimes, I even conjure up imaginary faces and backgrounds for them, and I just think about those many lives, all connected for one small, weightless moment. You know what I mean?”

I have her attention now, but I can’t read the expression in her eyes, and for some reason, that dries my mouth.

“Nolan?” she asks.


“Have you been watching Lost again?”

It takes me a minute to realize that what she said wasn’t profound in any way, and I feel oddly relieved. “Hey, it’s not just because of Lost! I do think about that when I see planes. Sometimes. I do!” I emphasize when she shakes her head, hair drifting back and forth across my chest.
“Nolan, Nolan, Nolan,” she chants, but cuts off with a squeal when I lean down and blow a loud, wet raspberry into the crook of her neck. She tries to roll away, but I wrap her up in my arms and hold her tight to me. With her this close, the cranberry smell is so strong it almost makes me dizzy, and those curls are soft against my cheek.

Suddenly, I realize I don’t want to ever leave. I want to stay right here, with Ada, on The Lookout, forever.

“Come on,” she sighs. “Let me up.”

Begrudgingly, I loosen my grip and she stretches out, then rises to her feet. She bends over far enough to offer me a hand, and I’m overwhelmed with exhilaration, like I want to take it and launch off the ground and up, up, up into the air, catching up to that plane we drew in the sky. My veins are vibrating beneath my skin. It feels new. It feels good.

“Hey,” she asks as she pulls me up, smiling slightly. “Do you think when you’re creating stories for the people on the plane, there’s someone on the plane creating stories for all the people down here? Like, some stranger, thousands of feet above us, looking down and sketching out an imaginary life for you and me?”

She’s still smiling, but there’s an eagerness in her expression and a brightness in her eyes that tells me that whatever my answer is, it’s very important to her.

I’m still holding her hand, and I give it a small squeeze. “Yeah,” I say, smiling back at her, “I think there is.”

Written by: Allison Sobczak
Photograph by: Skyler Smith

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