Dancing on the Wings of Angels
I imagined her, sometimes, like a stationary Icarus, hanging above the world that lay beneath like a map without the lines. Irissa told me what happened. The angels weren’t with her that day.
But before, when we were younger, like children in a folktale, I loved her—or I thought I did. She was older than me by almost two years, but that was enough, or too much. Later, I always fell in love with older women—women I could never reach.
Then, everything was new. We spent time together—but we were never together. She liked me, and we sometimes talked on the phone. We met at track and field events. She was more athletic and more competent than me—a driven young woman, who could run and swim and throw a javelin like a hero of old.
She was more serious about track than me, but we were both a little stupid—drinking and smoking at parties after events. She eventually quit the smoking; I didn’t.
I mostly remember the walk. She brought Irissa, who came as a friend. I didn’t mind; I made myself not mind. We walked all that day, again, like children of a folktale, wandering into the story of our lives, where we got lost, just like the children of those stories.
She brought a radio. It helped us get through the hours of walking, and she sang softly, sometimes, and I listened when she did. We were raising money for track and field by walking. But we didn’t think about that.
She told me as we walked about Carlos, older than her, much older than me. I suddenly felt my insides empty. I couldn’t compete with that—how could I? It was like a spiteful dwarf had come along and disemboweled me as we walked, but I kept going, my guts trailing behind on the ground.
Later, we are on the phone, and I have to tell her. She listens as I fumble through my explanation of how I feel, that I think I’m in love with her. She can’t respond and hands the phone to Irissa.
Irissa is like a commentator—"she’s crying,” she says. “She just keeps shaking her head. She didn’t know. She’s sorry—she’s crying again.”
Things are blurry after that. I don’t see her again for a long time. I know I saw her at events, but I can never remember clearly. I wonder later if this conversation was the last time I really talked to her.
She took up parachuting at seventeen. It was her new passion—that’s what Irissa told me. I thought about her, as my twenties burned themselves out in drinking and stupidity. I never got my feet on the ground, but there she was, leaping out of planes and dancing between Heaven and earth—dancing, dancing on the wings of angels. Until, one day, her chute failed to open. Then, she was a rag-doll corpse, twisted on the ground—forever grounded, forever broken.
Somewhere, in my directionless haze, I thought about the girl I was in love with. I clung to that because I couldn’t live with the thought of her lying broken on the ground. I didn’t go to the funeral. I hate funerals. I reworked my image of her, keeping her in the air, forever dancing above the earth, her passion and excitement for life keeping her aloft, while I trod the gutters and alleys of my life, getting more lost as one day folded into the next, none of them with any meaning to help me find my way through.