Flying is a distant, forgotten memory, lost in haze and obscured by an oppressing unknown. Somewhere, deep inside, I know it should be me. I should be up in the sky with that hawk, circling overhead.
I can practically feel the wind whistling sweetly through my feathers as I ride that warm thermal up, up, up past the clouds that float like cream. I can count out the rows of whatever those clay colored shingle things are called that they line up all along the roofs here in California. I can see out across the town and watch the cars inch like ants; slow and purposeless from my perspective, but in their two-dimensional world they are caught up in a whirl of determined, self-important intent. Carrying crumbs along blindly to some cause or another. I can breathe in that humid, salty air as I watch all of them from my panoramic place in the sky.
Being that hawk is second nature to me, I know it. I can feel it burning in the bowels of my heart. More than a desire, it’s a deep, guttural need. So why I am I tied here, this unwitting balloon that aches to soar, clinging to the ground by cord?
I gave up on flying long ago. I’m not quite sure at what age I determined that I couldn’t fly; probably six or seven, not long after I started devouring books like a ravenous monster. Something about the fact that everything was possible in those stories made me look around and wonder why they weren’t possible here. But since evidence (and everyone else) insisted the contrary, I eventually realized that they were right and I succumbed to the limitations of reality. I stopped listening to that part of me that whispered in my ear late at night: “you were made to fly!!!”
Still… deep down, a tiny little part of me clung to hope. On every birthday, I would spend my candles on the request to fly. On every star that I hung a wish, I would beg for it to pull me up into the clouds. In every fountain that I tossed a penny, I would squeeze my eyes shut tight and my heart would flutter as I thought: it might come true. It might. But as the years passed, candles stacked up, caked with dried, cracked frosting, and I realized that my wish would never come true. I was being naïve.
I gave up on stars and fountains and birthday candles.
I resigned to my fate on the ground, and adopted a love for walking instead. At least I was going somewhere; at least the scenery was changing. I bought a convertible so that I could always have the wind in my face. I accepted that my dream was impossibility, although now I realize that even in the midst of disappointment, a tiny voice inside of me insisted quietly: improbability.
Truth be told, I think I could never quite let go of that yearning for the wind in my face and the world waving to me from all four horizons. I definitely tried. I stuck it on a back shelf in my mind, let it bathe in dust. Every time I would go in there looking for something I would notice it and jump, startled into yearning all over again. Quick, shut the door, latch it closed before the tears can fall, breathe a sigh of relief and try not to go back there again if you can help it. There’s nothing more painful than a dream you can never touch and hold.
And here I am, staring up at this hawk, watching it take for granted the world in which it lives every day – the world for which I reach, and return each morning with empty palms. I try to slip between the feathers and settle inside of his skin, gaze out at the world through those shrewd yellow eyes. For a moment, we are one, and I am looking down on my head, a brown speck in a fenced in square of dusty land, far below.
Then it is over, and I am me again, looking up into nothing but blue. Maybe if I imagine hard enough, gravity will shift upside-down, and I will fall into the sky. I hope, halfheartedly, for a second.
No luck. Hope drifts away on a breeze, carried off to someone else for whom it might serve better.