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learning to fly

For those of you who knew Trey and I kept three of our nieces over the weekend, I’m sure you expected this blog post to be about that adventure.  But that will have to wait:  latest reports confirm that my sister and brother in-law have yet to get their surprise from the girls that we spent most of the weekend working on.  I’m so proud of the work they put into it, so I won’t ruin the surprise now!

 

So, in lieu of that story, I decided to share this one.  Months and months ago, maybe even years, I had the most vivid and amazing dream.  It was so vivid that upon first waking up, I wrote it down.  Every now and then I would tweak it here and there.  But mostly it’s turned into a very short story.  Just a page long.  And maybe one day I’ll use it as inspiration for a larger work, but for now, enjoy learning to fly:

 

*          *          *

 

The witch doctor lived in the bottom of a valley, in the side of the mountain.  Her entryway was shaded by shrubs and Spanish moss.  She opened the door before I could knock.  The woman was short and squat, a fair-skinned negress with freckles and short curly reddish hair.  When she smiled with her mouth, her eyes rarely followed. We could hear bombs exploding in the near distance.  She hurried me inside down a steep and endless flight of earthen stairs into the vast cavern that was her home and workspace. She gestured for me to sit in what resembled a dentist’s chair that swiveled.  Excitement rippled through my body…excitement and sheer terror.  But how could I not take this chance, how could I pass something like this up? After I was seated, she strapped me in with thick leather belts around my chest, wrists and ankles.  Then she pulled a large metal hood, much like an old-fashioned beauty salon’s hairdryer, over my head.  The witch doctor told me to close my eyes and said if I didn’t look, it’d only hurt for a moment.  I squeezed my eyes tight and awaited pain.

At first, it was a small needle prick on the top of each of my feet, close to my toes, right in the center.  The needles grew larger with each prick, stabbing me so quickly, so mechanically, that I could not separate the pain each one caused.  When the needles stopped, I was flung from the chair to land on the ground face down, the metal hood still on my head.  A deep red heat radiated from the hood, pounding on the back of my head, hotter and hotter, redder and redder, for what felt like hours.  When it stopped, the hood was raised and the room felt silent and empty. “Well,” she said, bored and waiting, “fly already.”

I sat up slowly, praying that this time it had worked.  Before, I flailed and flung my body but could only seem to hover for a few seconds.  This time, I was determined to take flight. I slowly pushed myself up to sit, then shakily straightened my legs to stand.  I clenched my arms tight by my side, my hands in locked fists.  My feet shoulder width apart, I slowly bent my knees and pushed off from the ground as hard as I could, holding my breath and praying for success.  And it happened, I took flight.

I soared into the rafters, turning my head to change direction, avoiding the enormous crystal chandelier by inches.  I spread my arms and swooped from side to side, high and low, exploring and reveling in my new ability.  I laughed and screamed with joy. It was everything I hoped it would be.  To feel the wind rushing by my face and feel my body, weightless, soaring though the air I breathed was nothing short of miraculous.  I dipped and landed with a slide and a puff of dirt in the place from which I had risen.

The witch doctor watched with detached amusement as I tried to simply levitate, face down, hovering a few feet over the ground.  I wanted to know if I could soar to great heights and stay in one place to observe, to learn, to really see.  But I couldn’t stay aloft for long, my balance eluded me and I dipped and swayed in all directions, only to land on all fours with a thud. I gathered myself up and tried again, this time leaning back as I slowly pushed my toes off the ground.  I lay back in the air relaxed, as if swaying in an invisible hammock.  I couldn’t quite control myself enough to hover in once place, but I didn’t rock and dip uncontrollably like I had when floating face down.  I lay flat on my back in the air and drifted.

“Why,” I asked her, “is it easier to float on your back than on your stomach? It’s like just like floating in water.” I floated, unintentionally, right into her lap.  And she laughed.  The witch doctor let out the most delightful, infectious, comforting laugh and I knew right then that I had done what none of the others could.  I alone was the girl who could fly.

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