I spend most of my time in the air like a hover-fly—as you will gather from its name, hovering—motionless, observing, in the moment. Vicious accelerators, hover-flies do not so much fly as teleport. Although the Syrphidae aren’t classified as birds in any taxonomy that I’m aware of, I prefer to think of them as micro-hummingbirds.
I fly standing. Unlike Superman, I don’t need to fly prone to optimize against air resistance. My superpower is that gravity, wind, and time defer to me. Paradoxically, to fly I have to let go of the want or need to fly; the power can’t be forced. I have flown for as long as I can remember; I fly for trivial reasons and with mediocre competence.
Perennially the freshman, I skim through the halls of my high school swallow-like, just above the floor, willing myself around corners with aerobatic precision. I search for a boys’ room; their locations are dynamic, as if I were in Hogwarts. I need to find one that isn’t frequented by the high-school underworld, ever on the prowl for easy pickings and a safe place to smoke, and I need to find one that hasn’t been vandalized into a plumber’s nightmare, as I am barefoot.
Or I am cruising a corporate cubicle warren at a somewhat more relaxed airspeed, dodging the security department badge-checkers, acutely aware of my lack of badge, looking for my office. It wasn’t where I expected to find it, and these hallways, too, do not stay put. When I find the office, somebody I don’t know occupies it and my computer has been taken away, or worse, replaced with a Windows machine.
Outdoors I fly to escape crowds. Launching myself upward on a thermal welling from a hot asphalt parking lot, I soar like a vulture above a milling press of humanity. I feel relief tempered by a nagging impression that showing people I can fly lets a cat out of the bag that I shouldn’t. Even when I’m airborne I seem to spend most of my time trying to gain altitude to avoid power lines.
My avian masters—nectar-sippers , insectivores, carrion-searchers—fly in styles that are perfectly congruent with the ways they must earn their continued existence. They teach me by example but I can’t quite get the hang of it. I am disappointed that I can’t make more impressive use of my power.
Ray Scanlon. Massachusetts boy. Lucky to be above ground, lucky to have grandchildren. No MFA. No novel. No extrovert. Not averse to litotes. Twitter: @oldmanscanlon. On the web: http://read.oldmanscanlon.com/