ROGER TOWER CLEAR TO OPTION OVER – NEGATIVE CONTACT ON VISUAL – SKYHAWK ONE NINER FOXTROT CHARLIE TANGO ON APPROACH
A full year of Saturdays spent in the air, and this is what the girl has learned. (Not that she hadn’t heard yelling before.)
But maybe if the pilot wasn’t wearing an enormous headset. Maybe if she wasn’t wearing earplugs. Maybe if the airplane’s single front propeller wasn’t so loud it makes her tummy queasy and even the drugs her mom makes her swallow each time before takeoff don’t stop the airsickness so finally she starts wearing earplugs as the only thing that lets her fly without vomiting into a bag.
Maybe if the pilot wasn’t her dad.
Or if she had chosen to be here, or could choose to leave.
Even if she could just understand what lesson this weekly punishment with the plane and the shouting and the long silences is meant to teach her—or at least when it will stop, when she will finally be seen as having learned her lesson enough to go home—maybe then she might be learning something more than shouting.
Don’t tell me I’ve got my facts wrong. Or fall to the fallacy of Freud, imagining only sons can threaten a father’s throne, or evoke a mother’s passion. I know a hero’s plotline when I’m born into one.
The Sphinx first tipped me off. I had come with a riddle of my own: What is happening to the babies? My princely brothers each disappearing as suddenly as he arrived, my mother’s arms empty as her belly again flat. “Oracles can be misheard,” the Sphinx said, with a shrug and rustle of her wings, “or misbelieved. Daughter, son, child who shall—“ She bent to sniff my offering: half a lunchtime pb-and-j and a handful of goldfish crackers, then lipped one cracker and crunched it, open-mouthed. “What oracles don’t? Is misspeak. Gotta listen with the same precision.”
I left her growling happily over my sandwich, lion’s tail curled around her paws like a housecat. Considered carefully her words. Came to a decision. Plotted my next moves. A culmination years in the making.
“Eurydice, dying now a second time, uttered no complaint against her husband. What was there to complain of, but that she had been loved?” — Ovid, Metamorphoses
Disregard what poets tell you. They hear the thump of their own hearts and think they have discovered a universe. Or presume that my beloved, musician to the gods who never flubbed an entrance in his life, might in eagerness miscount the beats remaining to lift his wife back out of death. Turn for me too soon, an accident.
You living march toward darkness like a parade, joyous and cacophonous and blind. Whereas I have already worn my shroud. And I have already tasted ashes. The sunlight you steep in cannot thaw bones already chill with such fore-knowledge.
See the truth. In his final triumphant crescendo, Orpheus heard a single word fall from my mouth like a stone:
Once upon a time, in a kingdom very far from the sea, there lived a little princess who spent her days scooping up frogs and kissing them full on the mouth (though with very little tongue). This was the destiny bespoke her: that her lips would one day free a prince, who would come to rule her people with justice and grace and love her as deeply and true as only a man with a second chance at life can.
One day, the little princess noticed a strange thing happening. After each kiss, even as the frogs remained all entirely frog-like, a green splotch would bloom upon her fair skin. Then two splotches. Then three. No amount of lemon juice or pumice stone undid the pigmentation. Soon she grew quite mottled, her once smooth complexion pebbled and waxy to the touch.
“Well, no matter,” she thought to herself, “for isn’t this the essence of love? To transform ourselves without question into that which our Beloved will most desire?”
A girl looks into a mirror. Staring back: a feral thing with bloodshot eyes, its matted hair jutting twigs and leaves.
Trick of the light.
She shakes her head and the mirror ripples, then settles, like a pond after a skipping stone. Now, across the glass, the girl sees a matching limpid-eyed child in pigtails. She turns her face to the right and to the left, checking herself in profile, and nods, satisfied.
A final toss of her head, and the girl steps away from the mirror, opens the front door, and walks into the bright morning sun.
Stretching from her feet along the sidewalk behind her, the girl’s shadow rears on two hind legs and snarls at the sky.