Whenever I fly I find I can’t go more than ten feet off the ground. I kickoff and start to soar and I’ll hope that I’m able to get higher this time. There’s a cruelness to my ability. It’s no fun to just float a little bit above everybody else. It was fine the first time I did it. I thought each time would let met get a little closer to the sun, let me join the birds I watched out my window on rainy days. They still flew around, tweeting and eating the soggy, bloated worms that couldn’t live in their flooded tubes underground. The rain didn’t keep them from flying, soaring, cutting their way through the air. What is keeping me so close to the ground?
There is one benefit to my limited capabilities. When I go to school I can slide into that gap between the students and the ceiling in the hallway. It cuts down on the time it takes me to get from class to class. And after everybody leaves I can swoop up and down the corridors, skimming the top and the bottom of that grey tunnel and the limitation doesn’t feel so arbitrary. I physically can’t go any higher or else I’d run into the acoustical tiles in the ceiling or I’d crash into the floor. Sometimes I stay at school overnight and fly around. It’s not much, but it’s something.
One time I tried to start from a higher point than the ground. I went up on the roof of my building and jumped. My eyes closed, I could feel the cool air rush past me. This was what it felt like at the best times in those old school hallways, except I could feel the heat of the sun against my face and I could hear the birds, annoyed that somebody else could interrupt their flying space. It must have worked: I never hit the ground. I opened my eyes, excited to see the clouds rushing past me. What I saw was the bricks between the first two floors of my building. Even starting fifty feet or more higher than normal I still couldn’t break through that boundary.
Sometimes I dream of walking. Everybody walks. Everybody is rooted firmly to the ground. They aren’t tempted by the chance of flying high. They look up and know they can’t get to that wide blue space so they go about their day. When I dream I walk from one end of town to the other. It takes all day and all night to do, but it feels like the most wonderful thing in the world. Most people don’t know how easy it is to fly. It’s just a hop and then a way of thinking, knowing you won’t hit the ground. Flying is just willful ignorance of the law of gravity. That’s why everybody flies in their dreams. They don’t know that they shouldn’t be able to do it, so they just do. But walking. Walking takes real effort. Walking lets you know you’re doing something. Walking makes the journey mean as much as the destination. Walking limits you and opens you to see everything as it really is. When you fly past a tree you don’t even notice it as anything but an obstacle, reaching up into your path and trying to stop you from doing what you shouldn’t be doing. When you’re walking a tree is an opportunity. Anything can happen at a tree. You can sit underneath it and read a book or take a nap. It can get blown over in a freak gust of wind or a leaf can fall off. But none of that means anything when you fly past it in half a second.
I can’t walk because I can fly. I can’t truly fly because I’m stuck in between a rock and no place. There’s an invisible barrier that keeps me from achieving my true destiny. But maybe that barrier won’t be there some day. I can’t give up on my flying, subject myself to walk everywhere. Walking is the best thing you can do, as long as you don’t know how to fly. When you know how to fly it makes walking feel like eating your vegetables as a kid. A thing you know you should do but you just can’t bring yourself to do it when there’s candy to be had. Flying is my candy. I know it’s bad for me but I can’t stop. Could you?
A note about the pictures: I took all of these pictures. They aren’t meant to do anything other than indicate flight or a mood. The story isn’t about a bird, it’s a little thing I thought of as I went to sleep last night. I hope you enjoyed it.