There’s one thing about me that you should know, I can fly. Not very fast, and not very high. But I fly.
I’ve been able to do it ever since I was 11 years old. I thought it was dangerous to let anyone around me know. I correctly understood, even then, that I would be regarded as a freak, maybe put in a cage. An actual man-sized bird cage. Many nightmares have I had about that. Swinging on a perch, chirping. Newspaper laid out below me.
In Highschool, I was petrified that the football team would smash me into a bloody slop. Those things happen. There are people, for reasons unknown to them, that find an incredible magnetic draw towards destroying what is unique and what is beautiful in the world.
I will tell you, to be suspended over the surface of the earth, up in the atmosphere- by the power of your own body, gravity stripped away like a pair of impossibly heavy boots kicked off. That is the most beautiful thing that I can ever think of. It saddens me, that you will not fully understand this feeling. And that I can’t begin to explain it with weak metaphors.
I didn’t get to fly very often. When I did, it had to be in a secluded area, nearly 40 miles from where we lived. The mountains, where the pine trees scraped at the bottom of clouds looming overhead like blimps en masse at the Superbowl. I’d casually glide around from tree top to tree top, touching the tip of each with my fingertips and making a wish, on each- careful not to startle any hawks. In fear that they would go right for my eyes. And that I’d never make it home to you, blind like that.
I had to wait til night, of course. Always, timing my flight with a dark moon. I would never think to try that kind of thing under a full moon- or sometimes if I could feel myself anxious and in need of a flight, I’d chance it under the sliver of a crescent moon.
I’m a private person and it suits me to keep this fact hidden from people. It hurt me to have to hide it from my own wife and kids.
Though, I know, you suspected that I had a mistress and that was what all of those late night vanishing acts of mine were all about. I wasn’t cheating on you. I was floating over jagged peaks of flathead sandstone and granite and looking down at the stars reflecting in the lakes and rivers below me, spelling out secret messages for the hawks to read from above, and enjoyably, me too.
Sometimes though, at the kitchen table, I did ache to tell all of you. I’d open my mouth and the words almost come out, but then I’d think better.
“What is it, babe?”
“Nothing, honey, pass the chicken Lo Mein, please.”
Forever, it would have gone on, just like that. But when you went away to see your sister, I got an invitation to go see, Walter, a friend of mine who had a ranch just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I put my things into the Oldsmobile and headed away from our city. Soon the landscape was hot and flat and barren. That’s what happens when you go to the desert.
It wasn’t too much of a surprise to me when the station wagon blew a gasket. Smoke and steam and horrible noise. Like someone puncturing the lung of a minotaur. I was stranded on the side of a dusty road, with no one ever gonna come by. Just a bunch of sickly cactus. Helpless.
I always knew that Vista Cruiser would be the end of me.
The morning progressed. I cursed my bad luck. Not a single car came down the road. It was my own fault for choosing the back roads instead of the interstate, I still testify to this day, that it’s the only way to see any of this country. I was out of water. I could feel my guts really cooking in my body. I closed my eyes. My mouth like paste. My kidneys- little Cornish game hens roasting in a horrid clay pot.
Still, I didn’t fly. I sat by the car and I waited beside the road. I was hopeful. Vigilant. Patient. I watched the mesa that the road cut across. Those sick undulating waves of heat flickering and the sweat stinging my eyes.
A few hours later, I was out of hope. I figured my best chance was to head in a straight line to the south. The road was too meandering and I hadn’t seen another vehicle all day. I started to walk.
It wasn’t long, clumsy me, I fell down in the soft sand and smashed my knee on a hunk of Rhyolite. Volcanic magma hardened and left there not to just look pretty, but specifically to destroy me. My knee cap jumped out of it’s socket. I collapsed, crippled, dehydrated, nearly hallucinating. The world on fire at the edges burning inwards towards me.
I forced myself to sit up and then… I began to hover over the desert floor.
Then, unable to hold back, I started to glide low and quick over the sand and over the cactus, I flew as quick as I could towards civilization.
Ten minutes in the air, covering a great distance. I came closer to my friend’s ranch. To my surprise, my utter disgust and my lifelong fear, I saw a man standing on his front porch, watching me approach in the sky. He got a good look at me. I could see his wide eyes. Before I could land, he took out his cell phone and snapped a picture.
It was too late. People talk. You can do anything in this life, but you can never stop people from talking.
When I came back to our empty house, you and the kids were still with your sister. I had a day to myself. I’d seen a doctor in Albuquerque. My knee was healing, but I was told that I’d have to wear a brace for a month. I was moving around with the help of a crutch. Our house was quiet without you or the kids, the noise of Noah’s videogames and Kim’s guitar playing. I regretted that I hadn’t gone to join you all at the Lake House.
The men in the suits came to the front door, that night. They said they needed to speak to me about something. I let them in, there was no fighting it.
I knew exactly what their visit was all about. They knew the truth about me.
I am writing this letter to you because I love you so very much and I love our children so very much. They are letting me send you this correspondence, because they are not evil people. They are treating me well here, but I can never come back to you or the children.
I didn’t make this choice, I didn’t abandon you. I’ve been taken here and I will never be able to leave. Take solace in the thought, that I am not living in a man sized cage lined with newspaper, as I had feared and that I am not being cut apart by cruel heartless people- reduced into a leaking whimpering goo.
It is too dangerous, they say, for people like me, to be free in the world. Not only for what I could potentially do to the world, but would do to me.
Please, forgive me. And please, tell the children, if they can fly, not to.