Short Fiction: Learning to Fly

Learning to Fly

I never really wanted to live here. In this apartment. In this city. In this life. Then again, I never really wanted not to live here either. One day, you wake up, and your life’s become a caricature. And the worst part is I just don’t give a shit. My waking hours are dulled by a steady IV drip of apathy. And yet, I don’t even cling to that. I wouldn’t be up here staring down at the worker bees hustling to and fro below me if I were properly apathetic. That’s the problem. I’m even apathetic about my apathy.

The only thing I ever really wanted to do was fly. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” my parents would ask me. “I want to fly!” I’d retort, throwing my arms in the air and running around the room. My father would curl an arm around my waist and bring me back down to earth. “So you want to be a pilot then?” he’d ask, his face a textbook case of logic and parental support. “What’s that?” He smiled and took me to the library where I was presently inundated with books about Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh, though strangely not about the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II. I remember the reddening in my ears as I forced a smile and feigned interest. Sure, planes were cool, but neither my father nor the librarian understood. I didn’t want to be flown. I wanted to fly. A year later, I was fitted with glasses to correct the laziness of my right eye. See, I’m even biologically apathetic. After that, my father abruptly curtailed any talk of learning to be a pilot. I didn’t care. It wasn’t what I’d wanted anyway.

As with just about all kids, I eventually learned to believe that the idea of learning to fly (or x-ray vision or super-strength or shooting spiderwebs out of your hands) was patently absurd and meant to be relegated to the immature world of comic books and Saturday morning cartoons. I wonder about those kids whose parents and teachers couldn’t beat it out of them. You know the ones. The weirdos running around willy nilly in the grassy area of the playground. The ones you snickered at with your friends because it was the cool thing to do, even though in the deepest recess of your conscious mind you knew they were having a much better time than you were. Our pointing fingers and cruel snorts were laced with jealousy, and we all knew it, even though we’d never admit it. Do you ever wonder where they are now? I’d venture they’re either on meds, in the loony bin or special ed teachers. Either way, even if it took longer than the rest of us, I’m sure they’ve been gutted of the whimsy somewhere along the line.

But I’m getting off the point here, I guess.

So, what do you think? Am I up here because I’ve lost all hope? Or am I here because I have a shred of it left? Am I staring at the pavement 18 stories below my balcony because I think it could use a nice, fresh coat of blood and brains? Or because I think there’s a chance I might not have to set foot on the sand and stone amalgam ever again? Either way, perhaps today is the day.

“Are you ready to go?”

The voice is small and excited. I turn to see my son. The baseball mitt on his left hand is nearly as big as his head. He still believes baseball and learning to fly are completely valid subjects on par with learning the alphabet and counting to 100.

“Yup, I’m ready,” I tell him.

He grins and runs back into the apartment. I look back over the edge of the balcony and shrug. Oh well. I’ve waited this long. I can always learn to fly tomorrow, I guess.

© 2008 Elizabeth Ditty

The idea for this story also came from Matt, though he doesn’t remember it. I started out wanting to write something for a short story competition Lee Horne‘s entering, but then I decided I’d rather just post it on my blog. And despite the content of my two short stories, I promise I’m not suicidal.

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