The window ledge is small, far smaller than I remember. Maybe it always was. Maybe I’m the one that’s grown.
So much looks different now. The fields are green and lush as always, but the cityscape on the horizon is new. A sign of time passing. Of moments left behind.
I shift my weight, adjusting my feet, clutching the frame in a white-knuckled grip. The distance between my feet and the ground grows into a dizzying tunnel vision. I shut my eyes tight and breathe. One misstep would send me plummeting five stories down.
I’d forgotten. I’m not sure how. Adulthood dimmed the memory to the point of nonexistence. Like a dream I had once, long ago, that lingers, but just barely.
I remember now. It’s impossible not to with my childhood coming alive all around me. My bedroom exactly as it had been when I was six: white rocking horse with the pink saddle along the corner, a canopy bed so big a little girl could drown in the pillows and linens, a gorgeous bay window overlooking the property, and our faithful Nana, head on her paws, half her large, bushy body hidden in the doghouse. It had all been here, waiting for me.
Sometimes, in my high rise apartment, when I stared out the windows over the busy streets and my mind wandered, I used to think I saw him. Or maybe just his shadow, swift as a briar rabbit, disappearing back into the sunlight before I could fully make out his shape.
Those were the days when dreams became something a bit more solid. Touchable. When I’d stare into the sunshine at the little specks of dust twirling in their elegant ballet and think they were important somehow. If I could only remember.
This is what I’d needed. The countryside. Our summer home. My childhood.
He once told me he could fly. I believed him. I mean, how else did he appear at my bedroom window five stories up?
I asked him once to show me. At least I think I did. So many of those nights feel far away now, as though they were real for the moment but became dreams the moment I closed my eyes to sleep.
Come sunrise, he was always gone. A creature of the night, of my imagination. My invisible friend. Still, some very quiet part of me remembers what it felt like to take that first step off the windowsill, to extend my arms and feel the breeze lift me, weightless.
I readjust. My toes curl, my bare feet aching as I balance on the ledge.
There were so many times, as I grew older that I stood on this ledge and looked down. Nights when I couldn’t be sure if he’d been real or the most perfect dream. When I’d been between childhood and adulthood, longing for the innocence that time continued to strip from me.
I’d looked to the moonlight, to the tiny particles of dust flittering by and breathed deep, as though it would give me wings to fly.
It’s why Father moved us away. Why he integrated us into the city. It isn’t good, he used to say, to lose yourself to your imagination that way. My therapists all told him it was the harmless mind of youth. That I’d outgrow it. But now, standing here, it’s as real as ever.
I remember the chime of the giant clock, the brilliant, blinding white of the stars as we rushed past, the sky splitting open like torn fabric turning night to day, exposing a wild and endless ocean with enormous regal ships whose sails doubled as giant clouds against the cerulean sky. I remember the boys, children just like me that ran wild and lived among the forest. The mermaids, their scaled tails sparkling in the sunlight.
I’d painted all these things throughout the years. Drawn them in sketchbooks. Discussed them at length.
What do they mean, my therapists often asked me. What do they represent?
Childhood, I finally told them, when no other answer would suffice. When giving them its name was no longer enough.
I reach my hand out into a beam of light and let it swirl among the glistening dust.
You have to believe it, I hear him say clearly in my mind. I breathe deep, let the dust travel through my bones and make me light as air.
I do believe it, Peter, I whisper to the sky and lift my hands. Take me back. Take me back to Neverland.
I lean forward and with a final breath, let go.