He had always imagined covering his body in feathers. He knew it wouldn’t make him able to take flight, but it would, he was certain grant him a certain lightness that gravity and daily life denied him. And he knew that once covered in his dreams he could soar free of the restrictions that his conscious mind imposed on him, restrictions, he knew, that were the only reason he wasn’t even at that moment peering down at the world while moving across the sunlit sky of an autumn afternoon.
He expects that she will stop by and visit. This is a perfectly reasonable expectation though he knows she behaves as she chooses and that is not always in accordance with any standards of reason. Nevertheless, he waits for her visit which doesn’t happen. He will later get the courage to ask her why, she will say I had friends I had to see, and when he says “you were three miles away,” she will say, “but I had limited time to be there.” Months later she will ask him to come visit. He will say it’s a two hour, expensive flight and he can’t take the time away from work. She will remind him in her harshest voice that she won’t be around forever, that a visit even a short one, is the least a son can do for a mother, and when he reminds her that she couldn’t visit when she was there three miles away, she’ll say, “that was different I had friends I simply had to see”
As 33,000 feet, you want the smoothness that experience tells you, the sky will once again deny. Strapped in, you contemplate cursing the gods of travel, but no, they are simply meeting your expectations. Getting this close to heaven was once, she says, a mystical and spiritual experience, but then we transcended all of that with the first step on the lunar surface, overall a small step from one man and a crushing of dreams for all but the great religious cynics of mankind. With clouds below obscuring all you know the sun is mocking, surrounding your dark mood, painting it darker and you begin to hope that the thunderstorm that will greet your arrival can somehow wash away the hesitation of an eternity trapped in a seat on the lowest margins of heaven.
I am pressed into a seat that would conform only to the body of some alien creature, or so it seems, for hours into a flight that increasingly seems eternal, particularly for the baby two rows back, who, like me would much rather be anywhere else. The crew dims the cabin lights the universal indicator of “Don’t think of bothering us, we fed you and will give you a snack in the morning, only if you behave, so off to sleep with you all.” As my back and neck rebel, I remind myself it could be far worse, the food poisoned, perhaps, not merely inedible, for this, despite appearances, is only the second ring of hell.
She imagines life is much like a cocoon in which she must remain or risk instant death. She does not recall coming here but know she must have done so in the not too distant past. That is the problem with cocoons, there is no memory prior to finding yourself within, but she doesn’t mind for she has grown accustomed to this life, likes that shelter her home affords her. She is certain she will emerge some day, when the time is right, and she will take flight leaving this life behind in the receding darkness.
She imagined what it must be like to have wings. She always wanted to be unmoored from the ground, to be free of its incessant pull, to look down on it from high above, and not with aid of contraption, just her, arms outstretched. The ground was a prison. She could move about, yes, but never really free, that sixth direction always denied to her. The sea was as close as she could come to true freedom, the sandy bottom dropping away, but the water was an imperfect atmosphere. She finally found the courage and stepped free of the cliff, felt the wind beneath her, the earth below falling away and coming up under her. She flew on until the alarm clock ended her flight.