When my brother asked what I wanted for my sixth birthday, I promptly answered, “Wings!”
“Why?” he asked.
“I want to fly away!”
Later that week he bought me a pair of bumblebee wings that were on clearance from Halloween. For the next two years, I often put on those wings and imagined that I could fly away from the raised voices in the kitchen, from the broken chairs and broken promises. I dreamed that I was soaring into the sunset with my polyester wings, accompanied by birds of every color and song.
When I was eight years old, my parents had a particularly bad argument on a stormy September evening. I was crying in my brother’s arms, listening to my parents’ yelling, almost drowned out by the angry rumbles of the thunderstorm surrounding us. At one point I heard a thump on the roof.
I sat up. “What was that?”
“Probably nothing,” my brother replied, but I was certain that I had heard a thump.
My brother didn’t stop me from running outside, probably just happy that I was momentarily distracted from my tears. After all, he was only sixteen. It wasn’t his fault that he had no idea how to comfort a sobbing eight-year-old.
A flash of lightning overhead illuminated the body of a crow next to the wall of our shared bedroom. Its wings were folded at the wrong angles, its neck twisted too far to the right, its messy ebony feathers standing up. Holding the still-warm body, I ran back inside to my brother, clothes soaked with rain and eyes filled with tears once more.
He stared at me for a moment, then at the small black body, unsure what to say. The thunder and incessant rain filled the silence.
Finally he spoke. “I guess there are some things you just can’t fly away from.” He took me in his arms and hugged me tighter than he ever had before.