When I was a child, I would fling myself from anything over a foot off the ground. Climbing upon couches, tables, china cabinets; anything that would give me the feeling of flight for half a second, I bent my knees and leapt. At night I would practice flying by leaning off the side of the top bunk of the beds my brother and I shared. I would scoot to the edge of the mattress and lean my chest out over the carpeted floor below. In the summer, I would close my eyes to feel the oscillating fan on my face and I knew that must be how flying felt. I would look down at the Lego men and Micro Machines on the floor and pretend they were real people way down on the earth looking up at me, marveling in my god-like abilities. “Look!” they would say, pointing at me way up above them, “It’s the boy who can fly!” I would swoop down and do tricks for them, I would soar to new worlds, and I would be free. I could even fly so high I could reach the moon! When I got up enough nerve, I would bend my knees and leap from my bed and onto the floor. When my parents came in to see what had happened, I told them I had fallen from my bunk. No matter how many boards they nailed to the side of my bed, I always seemed to roll out once a week.
I loved to spend time in my tree house. It was at least ten feet in the air. I would lay on the pine planks, smooth against my back, and stare up through the branches of the tree, all the way to the sky. I dreamt of lifting off the floor and up into the clouds where I would spin and twirl, defying gravity. I would wish for the day when Peter Pan would fly through my window, sprinkle fairy dust on me and we would be off. Somehow I knew that if I thought about it enough, if I believed enough, if I had enough happy thoughts, I could fly. I would leap into the air, never to come back down again. I would just sail away.
Once my family visited a ranch for a weekend in a desperate attempt to fixate me on something other than flying. My parents thought that perhaps I would become a cowboy and gallop around the house with a horse head on a stick. I was so excited, I could hardly sit through the car ride. I knew this was fate. We were going to a special ranch, a place where Pegasus’ family members grew up. They had kept their magic a secret, until someone special like me came along. We would ride around the corral once or twice, then my magical horse would turn his head to wink at me and tell me to hold on and we would fly away into the sunlight. I was wrong though. I hated being wrong.
A few weeks later I was laying on the floor of the tree house, wishing to fly, dreaming about the day. I thought about making wings for myself out of my sisters feather boas and old pillows in the linen closet. I dreamt of ways to propel myself into the sky. I knew that if I was ever going to fly, it would have to come from inside myself. The problem was that I didn’t believe in myself enough. I had no courage. It was at that moment I knew something inside me had changed. The revelation had finally come and I now had enough courage. All the wishing and hoping and dreaming had built up in my heart and now I was ready. I knew what I needed to do.
I stood at the edge of the deck and looked down. It was autumn and the leaves had fallen, covering the grass. All I had to do was to close my eyes, jump, and there I would be, flying through a frothy mist of clouds. My faith would carry me up to the sun. I stepped forward so the toes of my sneakers hung off the edge of the wood, bent my knees and leapt.
My arm was broken in two places. I remember hearing my mother scream two seconds after I hit the ground. My father wrapped me in his jacket and they carried me to the hospital in the mini van. My mother thought I was crying because my arm hurt so badly. I told her she was right, she had enough on her mind anyway. That night I began to sleep on the bottom bunk. I wouldn’t climb on anything higher than a chair and I never went to the tree house. Laying in the middle of my room, my plastered wing stretched out to the side, I would stare up at the mobiles of birds, airplanes, and kites that hung from the ceiling. I would lay there until I began to choke on my own tears. Rolling over onto my stomach, I rested my cheek on the carpet and slept until dinner.
The cast came off after a few months, but I wouldn’t go back to my tree house, I wouldn’t choose Peter Pan as my bedtime story, and I wouldn’t talk about flying. My parents whispered that it was for the best, that it was only a matter of time until I got hurt and that maybe this accident had knocked some sense into me. In my heart, I believed I was never supposed to fly. I thought there was a god out there who did not want me to swim with the stars; I had been cursed.
One night I dreamt I was a cloud. I drifted along in the sky happy and peaceful. I looked down at the world below and I would smile. If I saw the earth needed rain, I would become a rain cloud and wash over the dry, cracked ground, making it moist and fertile. Sometimes I would become excited and fly like thunder. I would flash electricity down and beat the waves of the ocean with rivets of water. On summer days I would turn white and fluffy, morphing into shapes for young lovers to gaze upon.
I woke, covered with sweat, drenched with a misty dew. I knew what needed to be done. I went to my window. It was late a night, the earth was sleeping under a clear sky of stars. The glass panes opened easily and I was able to push out the screens. Climbing onto my desk, I stepped out onto the window sill and then onto the roof. The summer breeze felt cool against my damp forehead and I stretched out my arms to hold the wind. My fingers flexed against the caresses it gave me as it swirled around my head and whispered in my ear, “come, now is the time”. My toes curled around the edge of the gutter, but I did not look down. I smiled to myself, bent my knees, and leapt out into the night sky.