Marie is walking down the street.
From her back protrude some kind of balloons, one of which floats high above her.
Like most people.
And like most people, Marie is not aware of it.
Even if from time to time, everyone can feel one balloon in the others, because there is always one that takes up more space.
For example, George, the baker on the corner, has a big red balloon on the back of his head, it’s as if the balloon is always growling and saying “Be careful, eh… Be careful eh!”, like a dog ready to bite.
George is always smiling, but Marie knows not to make the slightest unpleasant comment about his bread!
His daughter, who helps him at the counter, carries a green balloon that seems to cry endlessly, as if to say “I suck…”.
She also always has a smile on her face and tries to joke with each of the customers, even if it means overdoing it sometimes, Marie thinks.
The letter carrier has a huge grey balloon that pulls him backwards as if he was trying to escape all the time. Marie tries to meet his eyes every time, but to no avail.
Marie feels light, she does not feel anything particular for herself, no balloon in sight!
So, smiling, she went to the home of a couple of long-time friends, Sophie and Nicolas, who had invited her to brunch with other friends of theirs.
Sophie and Nicolas almost never have a balloon in their back, she feels nothing, it’s relaxing, she thinks.
She feels good in their company and as if she is at home, she drops her things in the room before saying hello to everyone.
Marie sees some with balloons on their backs, others without.
Marie tries to make a good impression and liven up the conversation within the group a bit to include everyone.
She shares some good tips about the area, events, outings, nice cafes and restaurants.
Everyone thanks her warmly for her recommendations.
But towards the end of the meal, when Marie tries to connect with some of the people, she senses that the others aren’t putting in much effort, and are not opening themselves much.
She holds out the prospect of organizing outings the following week, but no one seems interested.
This is not the first time for Marie.
But this time, it’s a little too much.
And when everyone has left, she bursts into tears in front of her friends, explaining the situation.
Sophie and Nicolas look at each other a little embarrassed.
Sophie takes Marie’s hand and asks her very gently:
“Can’t you hear it?”
“I don’t hear what?” asks Marie.
Sophie hesitates for a moment and then answers:
“The balloon in your back …”.
“A balloon behind my back, what?”, Marie insists, “How dare you? And first of all, what would this balloon be, what does it say?”
Sophie is embarrassed, she exchanges a look with Nicolas who nods:
“The balloon in your back repeats “Love me”, “Love me”, …”.
This time, it’s too much for Marie, on the verge of an explosion of anger, sadness, frustration..
She doesn’t even know what she feels anymore.
She gets up, takes her things and slams the door behind her.
Behind Sophie, a little yellow balloon emerges and repeats softly “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, …”.
Marie is mad with rage.
She broods over this short conversation as she walks home.
“How could her friends tell her that?” she wonders.
With her mind in her thoughts, she doesn’t see a tall, thin man walking straight towards her. His heels are clicking loudly with each step and the volume of his phone conversation is much louder than necessary.
At his back, he has a balloon that seems to be screaming “Look at me, look at me!”.
The slender gentleman eventually runs into him but continues on his way.
Marie comes out of her thoughts instantly, jostled.
She over-apologizes to the man, even though she knows she didn’t do it, but he is already out of reach.
It is at this moment that she hears a small voice in her back: “love me”, “love me” which seems to disappear in the distance too.
She shakes her head as if to help it disappear and continues her way home.
She passes the concierge at the entrance, exchanges a few words but her attention is quickly turned to this small voice that she hears again in her back: “love me”, “love me”.
She climbs the stairs four by four, opens the door quickly and collapses on the sofa, in tears.
Marie can’t get these words out of her head, she can hear them for sure now.
“love me”, “love me”, “love me” ..
She decides to take her phone to send a message to Sophie:
“Sophie, I’m sorry about earlier … I think you’re right, I hear the voice of that balloon now …”.
“I’m sorry, I thought you knew … We both love you very much with Nicolas. Here is the number of a balloon cutter who helped me in the past. Take care of yourself!”.
“A balloon cutter?”, wonders Marie, “I didn’t even know that existed!”
Without hesitation, Marie makes an appointment.
Marie sinks into the chair.
She tries to see if she feels balloons in the back of the balloon cutter.
“… and that’s why others reject you, it’s as if you were constantly inviting them to fill a bottomless barrel with love, they feel exhausted in advance and prefer to move away … “, ends the balloon cutter.
Emotions run high, but Mary keeps calm and asks:
“Can you … cut this balloon?”
“Cutting a balloon is a bit of a shortcut, in fact, if you cut it, another one always ends up growing back. Instead, we’re looking to make sure that we cut whatever is blowing it up to make it go away permanently, to cure the blower if you will.”
The balloon cutter pauses, then finishes with a smile, “And that’s my specialty. Shall we go?”.
This morning, Marie no longer hears the little voice in her back.
It took a few days for it to disappear completely.
But what surprises her most are the interactions with those around her.
There is much more lightness, less pressure for her and it seems for the others.
In fact, she joins a new friend for a coffee on the corner. She met her by chance while waiting in line at the bakery!
On the way, she passes Sophie and Nicolas’ house and decides to drop by unexpectedly to say hello.
It is Sophie who opens, smiling, her little yellow balloon going up her back and starting to repeat “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, …”
Marie, without saying a word, takes her for a long time in her arms.
Then without moving, tells her with a lot of love:
“Thank you for showing me my balloon in the back. Thank you for being my friend.”
And Sophie’s yellow balloon instantly deflates.