Sometimes the wind blew so hard, it blew scraps of paper, wrappers and dust from the gutter – clear up to the twenty-fifth floor. You wiggled your toes through the railings, and you saw the birds go higher. You watched them wet their wings in the clouds.
You knew you were going to fly. It’s all you ever wanted to do.
Your old man dragged a stool out to the the balcony, to be with you. He stretched his legs long and said, That’s good, son. So get yourself a plan. You need to study X and then you’ll get to Y. Might take a while but that’s the way to Z .
You turned to look at him and thought you saw the Z he got to. You saw the blood in his eyes and the dirt in the crease of his neck, but you never saw a bird with a plan. You just saw them fly.
But Marcus said:
This is how we get you there, fly boy. This is the fast track.
Marcus will have you a private jet in no time, with a pilot, and rye whiskey in a sharp cut glass, scything through sky.
You took the gun, because he took the wheel. He said it was fair. And fair was fair for the white boy in the suit, the one that had to mess with the fine balance of things, the transition between earth and air.
You dig for worms in the exercise yard. The others watch you and spit, slit-eyed.
Hey birdman, they say, you’re cleared for takeoff. Go ahead and fly.
Sure, your nose is in the dirt, but it won’t be there long. They think they know you, but they can’t see under your skin. There’s a feeling – like bubbles under glass – just above your shoulder blades, and back in the cell, if you reach back around your neck, you can feel two lumps, smooth as eggs. You touch them and they vibrate, low and mellow, living things that breathe with you. They quiver and itch. This time around, they won’t melt off your back. Marcus, you can rot in hell, wherever you are.
Carson squats over the bucket in the corner. You see the white sinews of his thighs. His voice is all naive and quizzical, but his eyes are the flint of no good.
You got fleas, birdman?
It feels right to hold his head in his own shit. He can rot too.
That was three days ago. You won’t get out anytime soon. Three days they’ve watched you on their CCTV. Your screams are reedy, and repetitive. You’re hopping around in their strait jacket like a baby starling in traffic, and they sip their coffee and throw their heels on the desk. You hear what he’s sayin’, they grin. Listen.
You’re back with your dad, struggling against him, high above the city. He won’t let you go. You’d pull him over with you, just to be given a chance. But you’re too weak still, and he pulls you back from the edge.
Now you know it’s the truth, but you’re talking to blank walls.
These wings are real. These wings are real.