A few dreams ago, I watched the dancers float in and out of the stage, a long dark canyon into fog. Rehearsing and misremembering, I watch children weep in white. Some float away into the rafters as they cry, buoyant by means not their own. Their tears stain the stage. I sop them up with my sleeve. They run into the wings, the great swan of the stage folding in her cygnets. We wait, the orchestra tunes their strings and the children flex their feet, remember to turn back their shoulders. It is only a children’s dance recital, but they are still ashamed that they float away. Men and women know how to stay down. I tie strings to their ankles, weigh them down as much as I dare. Some need bricks in their pockets to keep them down, though they should know by now how to touch the earth.
They trip out into the light, some a few inches or feet above. And some dance on the stage, others in the air. Some of their parents rise as they dance on, forgetting the people seated behind them. They can’t help themselves.
In the half-moment after the end and before the applause, I wait for my own weight to rise.
A few dreams ago, I found I could fly as I fell, huge black wings sprouting from my shoulders as soon as my feet found anything other than earth. I fall as my body rips out of itself, burnt paper, torn cotton. From nothing comes a ripped white wedding dress and burnished coal wings, a huge white cow skull at my brow. I soar huge and dark in the afternoon light and alight on earth astonished, in the cathedral of a linoleum-florescent shopping mall, feathers shedding, wings crumpled into nothing, horns shattered. I am only a bird as long as I am in the air. I throw myself down the stairs, and now I have white wings, a dark skull, horns, ebony and onyx. As the stairs end, I soar into the sanctuary of shopping. I beat the air until it bruises black, my feathers the only light. I dive as deep as I dare, into the shadows I have made.
One feather brushes the ground, and I am earth-bound. I resolve to never touch the earth again.
I climb up to the balcony, stories high, shoppers banal and be-sneakered. They watch me climb up on the edge, breathe, fall.
Where are my wings?
I wait for the impact of earth, of linoleum. I wake.
A few dreams ago, I took my son to the movies, neon and popcorn. Twitch and tremble, small scared hands and pouring popcorn out of buckets to set the grease upside down upon our heads. Just at the big-screen kiss, I flicked the lighter in one smooth switch and set us both on fire. We burn. They save my son, blanket smother and stomp. I burn. They try to save me. I do not let them. I run to the stairwell. They have my child. A father is not so without his son. I run, charred and smoking, wrestle him from more sane arms than mine. We run down the stairwell, grey fire-retardant paint crackling, molten bubbles. They are just behind us. Shove and trip, throw the child down the stairs as I fall after him. I can hear them coming. We spend hours running into the earth, bruised, bloody and burning.
I want to keep him. I know I will not.
After hours, we reach the basement, more body than man. We wait behind laundry machines and garbage bins. They are coming. I leave my son behind the cardboard boxes. I do not say that I love him. I creep behind the garbage chute. I crawl beneath the table with the broken leg. I wait. They seem to be leaving. I crawl back to the boxes. They find me, child at my feet. I scream my own name as I wait for the bullet. I wake.
© 2015 Anna-Christina Betekhtin, All Rights Reserved.