6 Topic Dash – While I was Walking
This spring… each week I thought and thought and thought about the theme, and a spark or two caught, but the little fires fizzled out. Today I looked at the 6 topics I’ve missed and something alchemical snapped in my brain. This is the result, written in an exuberant freewrite dash, all my weirdness joyously flailing about.
Our paths intersected at the crossroads. I stopped to stare, though I probably should have kept going. It wasn’t just the wings (though they were impressive, massive things that woofled like shaken sheets of hammered steel, each cell translucent grey), it was also the song she was signing. It had my name in the chorus when it shouldn’t by any rights be there. No one wrote songs about me. I stocked shelves at a country co-op that only sold one kind of alternative-to-peanut nut butter. I mean, seriously. But she had it all in her song, the dog biscuits I’d stolen from the SuperMega grocery when I was four, the bandaid I’d lost in a hot dog at a summer job, the brand of conditioner I used that smelled like peaches. So when she walked up to me, right into my personal bubble, our noses almost touching, I suppose part of me had already accepted what was going to happen. Her indigo-black eyes, too large in a mostly human face, did not blink away from mine. The song got louder. It filled my head. Her furry antennae curled around my face, kitten-soft. Her strong, oddly-large fingers held me by the shoulders as her wings folded around us, shutting out the sun. A thrill ran up my spine as if I were crouching in the best spot during a game of hide and seek at dusk.
I was late for work, so late the door was locked and the sky was dark. That was odd. I was certain I’d had a morning shift, but somehow those hours didn’t have a place in my head. I felt full of dandelion fluff and kombucha bubbles. I was excited about something and I had no idea what it was. Climb, climb, climb. It was a gong in my head I could not avoid. So I climbed the big peeling birch in the parking lot with fingers that conveniently sprouted a Velcro-ish fur. The top of the old tree still had a few sturdy branches. My innate and familiar mammalian fear of heights was suspiciously silent as I swung hand over hand to a comfortable-looking crook. I dangled, delighted, and burst into song, a surpsingly rhyming thing about modes of containment – every one I could think of – bread boxes, shoe boxes, fire-proof vaults, trapper-keepers. It was no great surprise when the cocoon my song spun wrapped cleverly around my face and sealed me in cozy as a cat in a too-small knitting basket, dangling like a mango.
It wasn’t quiet in my cocoon. It was humming, purring, om’ing, moaning. In the dim, blood-rosy light, I felt my structure dissolve. Like a circus tent whose central pole has snapped, all the meat and means of me let go with a billowing exhale. There was no pain, there was just Me. My mind chattered on, reminding me of childhood cereal jingles and reciting rebuttals to arguments I’d never voiced, listing all the things I had still to do in the half-finished topiary garden at home, wondering if my fridge was reeking with rotten kale, for surely I’d been up here for days. Lots of the time I slept, lulled by the om-purr. And dreamed. The kinds of dreams where you fall in love with strangers and wake to wonder at how your very brain can manufacture such a sacred experience on a whim. I slept, I ruminated, I felt myself restructured in a crystalline architecture. I began to feel tight, to have swollen like a finger jammed into a soda bottle. The urge to chew was insatiable.
The membranous walls of my cocoon tasted like steak and I soon felt cool air on my lips – yes, I was pretty sure I had lips, and could still lick them, or bite the lower one nervously. Fingers a size larger than I recalled pulled at the tear as I impatiently pushed my face through, eyes blinded by starlight and a two-thirds dark moon. The night was bright as high beams, humming with voices I very much wanted to talk to, but I was utterly exhausted, Lord-of-the-Rings movie-marathon exhausted (extended versions), and could only cling to the limp sac of my cocoon with arms and legs and fingers and toes with a tenacity that did not wane as the hours passed. The lunar wind dried my damp wings, the rubbery kite-bones stretching from my back, drying supple as willow sticks. With a crack like a sheet snapping in a sudden gust on the clothes line, my wings unfurled from my back. I dropped from my 74-foot height into naked space, my wings carrying me in a smooth parabola away from the co-op parking lot and out over the porch-light-speckled countryside.
Flying through the air was not like being an object flung into open space. It was a completely logical, ever-shifting geometry of conditions to adapt to. Warm or quick, cold or thick as spun cotton. My wings moved through them with the subtle manipulation of many-jointed fingers, knew how to tilt each translucent cell to catch this gust or that zephyr. I tasted the air with my toes – could taste velocity and humidity. The pressure drops over the town pond was tart as regretfully-bitten crab apples; the whorls and eddies over the dairy farms clammy-soft as an interviewee handshake. My wings rang like cymbals. The single-minded joy of flight possessed me until the mostly-dark moon had set. I was seized with a new hunger, not for freedom, not for flight, but for another face. And I already knew who she was. I could smell her, tantalizing as baking bread. I followed the river that I knew would take me to her.
The little river ducked under a wide concrete culvert, a pebbled one-lane track piggybacked on its shoulders. Something for tractors pulling manure wagons and heifers moving from high pasture to barn. And her. Up dutifully at dawn to pack her paints and turps and mottled brushes, a cold egg sandwich and a thermos of coffee into a big wicker backpack, the thrill of an anticipated painting rising off of her strong as ripe lilacs. And as I alighted – that was something I could now add to my personal vocabulary of verbs, alighting – I saw her mouth go slack at the sight of my chitinous gray-green wings, saw her pause with confusion as I sang the song that jumped from my mouth all about her missing red rubber boot, the muffins she’d burned three Thursdays ago, the recurring nightmare about the roller derby she had told no one. I was so glad to see her. As if I’d already fallen in love with her in a dream. Mine, my own, whom I’d smelled and tracked and craved from so far off. I took her by the shoulders with my just-too-big hands and looked deeply into her blue eyes with mine so indigo-black. I crowned her brow with the circlet of my down-soft antennae, and finally folded her into the embrace of my wings.
(thanks for reading – xo – jch)