learning to fly
learning to fly
found in a journal at the bottom of the closet
He brought her lilacs when she was in the hospital, lilacs from their own garden. If they were someone else, some other couple, it would have been a sweet, romantic gesture. But they were who they were, and the gesture spoke more of selfishness than anything else. She knew that as he was leaving, reluctantly, to come see her their neighbor probably leaned over the fence and asked if he wasn't bringing anything to cheer his wife up. And that's when he scowled and stomped and tore the lilacs from the bushes. He wrapped the stems in some tissues that were in the car. The tissues were probably used.
That was the time when she had some strange disease that made her hands swell up so she couldn't even tie her own shoes. And he still wanted to know where dinner was. She ended up in the emergency room, watching all her joints rise in slow motion. Her mother drove her. He wasn't home.
There was the other time in the hospital when she had a miscarriage - a slow, agonizing miscarriage that took a week to happen - and she had to go for a D&C and he was too busy to take her, couldn't her mother do it? His business involved not work, but things for himself. Her mother drove her to the hospital, never saying a word, never asking why. Her mother stood there next to her the whole time and when she came out of the anesthesia, instead of her husband standing over her, wiping the sweat from her brow and kissing her forehead, it was her sister and her husband. They took her home and she never cried again about the miscarriage because it wasn't that big a deal, he said.
There was the one other time in the hospital, where she gave birth to their first child, alone and scared and having difficulties. But he wasn't there because he wasn't all that into the childbirth stuff, and he would just wait out in the hallway and they could come out and tell him when he was a father. And as she pushed and cried and heard the heart monitor shudder and stop and emit a monotone beep, and as she had oxygen put over her face and vaguely heard nurses and doctors gasping and yelling, he was not in the hospital at all, but down the corner, doing something for himself. And when she was rolled out of the delivery room, finally, with a red faced, screaming child, he was just coming up the stairs, breathless and a little ashamed, and her sisters were there already, holding her hand and wiping the sweat from her brow.
She sat alone at weddings and funerals and birthday parties because he was busy. Too busy for family, too busy for her. She slept alone in bed on the nights he went out to do stuff for himself, and she slept alone on the couch on the nights he locked himself in the bedroom, shouting at horses and screaming into the phone.
She dreamed of a funeral, of the pretense of mourning and of the guilty glee that came when the coffin was shoved into the ground. She fantasized about accidents occurring in the dead of night on the New Jersey Turnpike, car overturned, wheels spinning, broken glass piercing his eyes.
She dreamed of her own death but then shook the thought from her head and replaced it with dreams of flying. Sprouting wings and flying high above everything, the taste of freedom on her tongue. She landed in places that were not so dark, not so bleak and when she woke up it was always with the sinking feeling that her wings had been clipped. There were times, in the silvery light of the early morning, that she clung to the idea that the past few years were all a dream and she would wipe the sleep from her eyes and find herself in her parent's house, unwed, umothered, lifted from her bitterness. But it never happened that way and she woke every morning in the same house, the same life, the same bitter bed she made for herself.
But last night she had a dream. Again, she was given wings. This time the wings did not just sprout off the muscles in her back. They were handed to her. She looked carefully through the fog that was circling around them and saw the person who had handed her those wings. It was herself. And she knew. She knew what she had to do to fly.
written in October of 1995