Hope is the thing with feathers.That perches in the soul..
~also inspired by the character Roxanna the Angel in the wonderful book Moonlight On The Avenue Of Faith~
At night, I dreamt I had wings. Wings: soft, small, emerald, sea green wings that gently brushed against my bare shoulders when I walked under the night sky. Wings that I would wrap around me when it was a cold night. Wings that would carry me gently into the clouds and fly me away.
My entire life my mother told me I was a runaway, like my ancestors before. I was a wild gypsy at heart.I would never settle, the sea and earth would always call my name. She told me it was a curse, that my feet would always bleed, but I would never be able to escape. I would never fly.
Maybe she once dreamed too. She must have dreamed of running, of flying,of escape. But of my childhood memories of her,I mostly remember her strong arms, the way she refused to touch me when I cried, how she never spoke more than she needed to. I remember her smell; of wood, smoke and soap.
She threatened to tie me to my bed at night, to cage me. She reminded me I was never to run, because those who run will only chase themselves in circles. And I believed she loved me. But she was afraid. She was the one tied to her bed, the one caged. So she tried to make me accept the fate she could never resign herself to: that she, that we, could never run away. We would never fly. In my head, I began to call her the caged bird.I refused to become like her.
I don't know when I first dreaming of flying away. I am not even sure what I wanted to fly away from. I was not a happy child, but since I knew of no other way of existing than in the grey moods of my family, I didn't realize there was any other way to live. I was simply alive. And I knew I wanted to fly.
I had this small idea that I was something special. Something different than a small child, born to a poor child, with a mother that never embraced me and a father that never embraced her. I felt that deep inside me was this sort of glow, this warmth that if I concentrated enough I could spread to the tips of my fingers and almost see. I told my mother about it once. She shook her head and said "It's called hope."
I asked her "Do you have a hope, mama?"
She sighed, quietly. "Sometimes."
She never told me what it was.
But my hope convinced me that if I pushed it hard enough that maybe it would spread all over me and gently grow feathers from my back. So I would stand on my bed, when the rest of the house had gone to sleep. I would open my window, the one with the broken screen. Then quietly I would take the torn screen out and face myself towards the open window. Then I would close my eyes and concentrate. I would push the warmth inside me all through my body, till I could feel warmth pulsing through me. I would feel it press my skin, trying to burst out. I could feel it spiraling and swirling through my legs. Then I would begin to imagine my wings.
My deep sea emerald wings, with soft feathers. My wings that shimmered. My wings that caught moonbeams and danced with the soft light of the stars. The wings that would one day take me away from here. Away from my small bed and away from the stale days. My wings that would show me the Caspian sea, the golden hills, the cold mountains. My wings that would show me the secrets my family held from me, that would tell me the fairytales my mom refused to let me read. My wings would be my freedom. My wings would make me free.
And as I imagined my wings, as I pushed my eyelids together, willed myself not to open them, sometimes, something would happen. I would feel a warm breeze against my cheek, or think I felt my foot float off my bed. I would swear I felt a feather grow from my back, or smell the sea. But as soon as I opened my eyes, I would be simply in my room. I would be simply standing on my bed in my too small white nightgown, surrounded by fading and flaking paint of the four walls of my room. Nothing was different, nothing was new. I had no wings. So every night I tried again and every night I crawled into my creaky bed, wingless. But I never gave up on growing my wings.. through weeks, months and years.
So on one night, many later but much like the others, I stood on my bed, facing my window. My nightgown was now above my knees, pulled across my chest. My chest had begun to bud and I pulled at the nightgown uncomfortably. My legs had grown longer and I stared down at their whiteness, surprised by their length. I placed my hands on my hips. They felt alien, curved and widened.
I sensed this was my last chance, that night I had to fly. I had to fly before womanhood claimed me, before my mother demanded to be free of me, before marriage came to cage me. I needed to fly tonight.
I needed to fly before the young man next door with the brown eyes and heavy eyebrows stopped only making eyes at me and began to speak to me. I needed to fly before the matchmaker with her smell of tobacco and cracking voice began to pinch my cheeks and appraise me like her newest ware. I needed to fly before I was forced to wear a shawl over my long hair to protect my womanhood, to light the sabbath candles in a new home that I would be ruled over in.
So I closed my eyes and felt my warmth inside. I coaxed it through me, hummed quietly, asking the warmth to spread to my back, to finally grow out my wings. I knew they were there, I saw them in my dreams. I just needed them to finally bloom from my body. I felt the warmth reverberate through me.
whispering under my breath
I opened my eyes, slowly.
Like the nights before, like the years before, I was still wingless. I crawled into my bed. I pulled myself into a ball and I wept. All the tears I had saved through the nights came welling through my eyes, burdened my eyelashes and ran down my cheeks. Tears began to run; streams of water from my eyes. And my tears were salty. They were salty like the Caspian sea and they shone...
I caught one green, luminescent tear on my tongue and swallowed it. And then sighing, I began to fall into a deep sleep. I dreamt of my emerald wings, felt them grow from my shoulders and back, push through my soft white skin.
I was no longer wearing my white nightgown, my skin was bare. I saw the moonlight wrap itself around me, clothe me in beams. I felt my wings brush against my bare shoulders. I dreamt I stood up on my bed and floated out the window, flew into the sky. I grasped at clouds and stared into the windows of sleeping children. I perched in a tree and watched two lovers embrace in a park, saw from above a man run away from the police into a dark alley. I winked at stars and danced through the tops of trees. And slowly I came upon the emerald sea.
I curled my wings and slowly descended down. The ocean breeze danced around me. I felt the cold, soft sand between my toes, walked toward the green waters. I dipped my fingers in the sea, water dripping down my hands in cold, wet streaks. I cupped a handful to my mouth, tasted the salt. I tasted my emerald tears. This ocean..it was my ocean. It was my tears. And deep inside me, I dreamt I laughed. An ocean of tears, I created my own ocean. And I laughed.
As the night wore on, I curled myself on the shores of my ocean. I curled myself into a ball, my pillow a pile of cold sand and slowly lulled by the crashing waves, I slept.
And as all good dreams do, mine ended. It was the light of morning and I woke in my little bed, in my little grey colored room, in my faded life. I was still in my small nightgown. I sighed and felt a tear run down my cheek. It was a clear, water tear. It tasted of tears, not ocean. I had only dreamed, I had only dreamt. I rubbed the sleep and tears out of my eyes. I pulled myself out of bed and set my feet on the floor.
I felt something soft touch my foot. I looked down.
There at my feet, lay a single emerald green feather.