The annual Lantern Festival is a big event for this small, sleepy town. Though it was not meant for lovers only, they have owned it for decades. Couples pour in from all over the state — dressed in their best, fragrant in love and perfume.
Some couples make a wish or a promise and send it soaring, with the lantern, to the skies for validation. Some burn their regret and pain away, ready to start afresh.Some whisper; some stand silent, observing.
I always nodded disapprovingly at the tickets you bought for the festival. “Let me burn those dollars instead,” I said. You argued that you purchased them at a discount from a friend’s friend. “Something to celebrate us,” you said, planting a kiss on my cheek. “Every love should have a ritual.”
I pretended to believe your fairy talk and went along, wearing the only button-down shirt I had. You lit the lantern, then closed your eyes for a second and made a wish. For our love to become eternal, I assume.
I did not make a wish; I had you. I just stood looking at your hazel eyes, glowing ethereally, following the lantern’s path till it vanished. I squeezed your soft hand, always puny in mine, and drew you closer, inhaling your fruity shampoo.
I still go to the festival every year, following our ritual, like an automaton. I pay for a couple’s undiscounted tickets. They don’t sell singles. I light the lantern with my shaky fingers, and wish you can see me dressed in the same shirt, except now it sags.
Young loves stare at me and my walking-stick.