I’m currently on page 427, and taking an leisurely trip through Derry. As you may recall, this is my third time through IT. As such, it no longer holds any real scares for me, and I’m actually reading more for nuance of character and those little details one often misses during that first breathless read.
But the first time, oh, the first time…
…was in late fall 1991. I was 29 years old, soon to turn 30, certainly old enough to know better, but still young enough not to care.
It was late afternoon/early evening in Northern California, still light out, still gorgeous weather, with a slight nip of autumn in the air, just enough to warrant wearing a cozy sweater while I sat in the back yard of my friend’s house. We were getting ready to go out for the evening, and she was inside the house finishing her makeup and hair. I relaxed on the patio, reading. Although relaxed is probably not the right word, because I was reading IT.
I took IT everywhere with me that fall because I could hardly bear to put IT down. That evening was no exception.
The neighborhood was silent. A slight breeze rattled the dying leaves on the backyard oaks. Other than the occasional bird calling out softly, the only noise came from the rapidly turning pages as I crept along the Barrens and ran through the streets of Derry with our heroes, Ben and Stan and Bill and Mike, Richie and Bev and Eddie. I barely noticed as the light began to dim and the sun began to sink behind the surrounding hills.
Then, I caught movement, just at the edge of my peripheral vision.
I looked up from my book. A solitary white balloon floated delicately over the wooden fence. It wafted down to the grass, and bounced once, twice, three times across the lawn, trailing a white ribbon behind it. Then the breeze caught it and sent it aloft again, over the fence on the other side of the yard, where it drifted upwards and away, until it was out of sight.
Holy crap on a stick. Heart racing, I threw IT down and ran for the house, barely remembering to open the sliding glass door before barging through. Sliding it shut as quickly as I could, I locked the door behind me, and stood with my back against it, guarding the house and all its inhabitants from Pennywise the Clown, who was standing outside behind me with his bright red nose pressed up against the glass, a multi-colored bouquet of balloons in his white-gloved hand; I knew he was there, I just knew it, even though I refused to look. I reached to the right and pulled the drapes shut without looking; then, and only then, did I step away from the door and dare to take a breath.
Oh. A homecoming balloon. Not Pennywise. I felt a little foolish.
But not too foolish. Because we all float. Yes, we do. We all float down here.