I stand in my room in the darkness. A pool of it. A valley of shadow between windows bursting with light. Slow, so slow, I rise up. Heels first, followed by the roll onto the ball of the foot, the pop to the toes. My arms rise as I rise. Into the light. One red, one blue. Warmth bathes me from finger-tip to shoulder. My skin shudders, pores emulating my feet, and with them my feathers ruffle. A perfect crest along the rise of each arm.
Feathers like leaves turn to the sun.
They rustle in the quiet of the room.
I hum to them. I imagine the breeze sings like this to birds. Calls them from the branches to play between the clouds, diving and swooping. I teeter, my toes dancing on the bare polished wood of the floor. I dream of flying but am grounded. I dream the wind will catch me but I dare not leap.
I stand like this on the wire every day.
Standing here in the dark between windows, my arms swimming in sunlight, I am transported to that moment where I hang suspended. Only a wire between my feet and the wind, between my feathers and the sky. Birds wheel around me, unafraid and yet so silent. Why are their beaks closed to song, to chatter? Are they waiting for something? Is it me?
If I did not doubt that I am a bird, would I have already flown away?
I hear my mama’s dress brushing the walls of the stairs, a rhythm in time with her swaying hips. The sound brings me back to earth with a thump. Dream to reality, pointe to flat, arms to sides. Warmth to cold. I remember that I am all but naked on top. If mama sees this… I snatch my jumper from the floor and pull it on. Without it, in only my bra, and sometimes not even that, I am all feathers now.
I feared they might grow on my face, making it impossible to hide them, but they stopped beneath my collar bones. Bird or girl? Skin or feathers? Perhaps both? Girl and bird. Skin and feathers. I can be everything at once, I feel the possibility deep within now I have walked the wire. Now I have played with the wind. Dared it to carry me.
Her knuckles brush my closed door.
‘Are you in there?’ she whispers.
I want to answer, but this is a game we play now. My silence, her hesitance. A change of our narrative. She fears for me. Fears me. Not in the sense of horror or of threat. She fears what I am becoming. Not woman. Maybe bird. Maybe both. I have known for some time, though I would never reveal them to her, that she senses my feathers beneath my clothes. I see her awareness of them in the way she looks at me.
There is a secret she wants to tell me. It is in her eyes. Locked like a box.
I do not have a key, and she will not give it to me. This is why we wrangle in silence and and hesitation.
‘Sweetheart?’ There is entreaty. My heart aches with it. I want so to answer, but she will not give me the key that I require.
‘Would you come down for dinner? Please.’
I hold my breath. Until I have that key, her only reward will be silence. This is unnecessarily cruel, I know, and I am viciously unnerved by my own cruelty, my resolve, but it has not and will not break. I hear her breathing in the absence of mine. Shallow, wavering breaths, as if her chest is hurting.
I know that pain.
I put it there.
I close my eyes, still and silent as a Blue Jay in the dark well between bright windows, between blazing beams of sunlight. How long until my cruelty renders me this dark, this cold? I should stop this foolishness. Perhaps ask the twins to tell me what she hides in her eyes. But I know they will not tell me. I hear their voices as if I had already asked them and they had already replied.
‘It is not our secret to tell,’ they say, and they are more somber than usual. Almost reproving. ‘You should not ask it of us. That’s not how it works.’
‘There’s a natural order to things,’ one of them, perhaps Assumption, says.
‘We break it at our peril,’ the other adds, placing a teaspoon to the table with an angry thock. It makes me jump.
And together they say to me.
‘Your mama knows. Ask her.’
My mama turns from the door. I cannot see her, but I feel it in every feather, every inch of skin. The swish of her dress retreats to the stairs and accompanies her down them. As she descends, I breathe again, and rise. Heel to pointe, arms to sun, reality to dream.
But the ache in my chest follows me to the wire and the woods.
Even the wind cannot carry it away.
© Ren Warom 2014