Do you still fly?
The question slammed back at me without mercy. Without emotion. Written innocently with my own hand, it was just a simple postscript of an email to an old friend. He was a pilot. Or a former pilot. I wasn’t sure.
I sat and stared at the words as if they had some bewitching power. I stared until I saw the eyes of the words glaring back at me. Until I saw the grin in the sarcasm of the question.
I pointed the arrow to the ’send’ command and retaliated with the press of the enter key. Take that, I said to the question. You can’t hurt me if you’re gone. But it was still there. Still. Do you still fly?
I pushed away from my desk and walked around to one of the narrow but tall windows in my upstairs office. The room with the light. The room with the view. The room that was screaming, Do you still fly?
I threw the window open and leaned over the sill out into the chilly air. I looked down across the barren field that adjoined my house searching for the usual sense of serenity. But now the tired, cold grass, pock-marked with rocks randomly scattered looked staged, like a movie set. The rocks mocked me as they called, Do you still fly?
And then I felt it. There was no need to pull it out from some hidden recess of brain matter. It was just there. I was there. Standing on the edge of my neighbor’s carport. That’s what we called them back then. Not a garage, really. Just an open place attached to the house, with a roof and large enough to park a car or two. This house was built into the wall of earth, as most of them were in that small country town hammered into nooks and crannies of the Blue Ridge mountains. A grassy hill sloped steeply away from the back of the house, an illusion of modern cliff-dwelling.
On the backside of that carport on the small precipice of brick, my grass-stained toes gripped the cold roughness as I fought to gain my balance. I looked across the rolling valley that melted into mountains, the summer air teasing the beads of sweat gathering in the soft wisps of hair that surrounded my face. Then I looked down on what had to have been only several feet, but felt like a lifetime of expectations. Down upon the faces of my childhood. Faces that taunted. Faces that teased. Faces with no compassion. And what I heard was, Can you fly? Do you fly?