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Fiction / Temim Fruchter

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To: altwilley@gmail.com
From: Lela_Jay78@gmail.com
Sub­ject: (No Sub­ject)
Attach­ments: How to Make Func­tion­al Wings from House­hold Mate­ri­als

So here’s the thing I was telling you about in my last email, attached as a PDF. It’s so weird—it’s an actu­al man­u­al for build­ing func­tion­al wings. I can’t even remem­ber what google search led me down this rab­bit hole—I think it was prob­a­bly some­thing total­ly weird like “Cause of Liam Neeson’s wife’s death” or “hom­ing pigeon sense of direc­tion” or “use verisimil­i­tude in sen­tence.” One of those things I start research­ing when I can’t sleep, which I haven’t been able to much since you left. And I swear I’m not say­ing that to make you feel bad about it, it’s just that my skin needs to learn to sleep against the sheets with­out yours, and I think it’s gonna take a while.

I won­der whether you sleep well these days. I know you nev­er used to.

Any­way. It’s kind of a long doc­u­ment, but look at part two, the whole bit about sound­ness and flight. It’s crazy, how the wire hang­ers fit togeth­er to make these shapes, how the sheets go taut when you sew them cor­rect­ly. (I had to bor­row a sewing machine from my sis­ter, and you know how afraid I am of sewing. It was actu­al­ly eas­i­er than I thought!) The pat­terns are real­ly elab­o­rate, too; they look as much like maps of nonex­is­tent places as they do like wings. You’d think this was some fake hack thing, but it’s def­i­nite­ly not. The first moment I real­ized this was when I tried to google it again and couldn’t find it any­where. Not in my brows­ing his­to­ry, nowhere. Creepy, right? You try.

Thank­ful­ly, I’d print­ed it out. As soon as I saw these wings and their atten­dant strange dia­grams, I knew I need­ed to make them for you. I have nev­er known any­thing so clear­ly in my life. I knew I need­ed to send them to you. I’m not in search of absolution—I know we’re past all that. I just felt like I need­ed to send a final kind of gift. Of course, I don’t have your new address. I wish you’d send it to me. It would make me feel bet­ter just know­ing where you are in the world.

I didn’t know if I could actu­al­ly suc­cess­ful­ly build some­thing this com­plex. But I did make them, in the end, and I made them well. You’re sur­prised, right? I can imag­ine your face right now, that sexy smirk of yours, see­ing this, won­der­ing how in god’s name could the per­son who for­got to add flour to her banana cake on the reg­u­lar fig­ure out how to fol­low the instruc­tions to make func­tion­al wings? But I did. Most­ly, it took a weird col­lec­tion of house­hold stuff—sheets, hang­ers, bak­ing soda, sev­er­al oils, goose down, but­tons, thread, panty­hose, mea­sur­ing tape, a lev­el, tal­cum powder—you can see it all in the PDF there. The one thing I had to acquire was the motor­cy­cle engine, which I end­ed up get­ting from Cary Rosen­thal, that guy who was friends with Amy, remem­ber? The Jew­ish writer dude who knew an inex­plic­a­ble amount about motor­bikes and was always tak­ing stuff apart in his back­yard? Obvi­ous­ly, had you still been here, you’d have been the one to ask. I am won­der­ing whether you ever did sell your motor­cy­cle.

I miss how soft­ly your face rests when you sleep.

Will you believe me—or at least try—when I tell you that these wings were gor­geous? I spent weeks on them, Al, more time than I’ve ever spent on any project in my life. It was like the first time I under­stood what work was. My hands were always blue and dusty, my calves always aching. I got a work­table on Craigslist. I put an old-school radio in the garage. I got my clothes dirty. I changed and got the new ones dirty. At the ends of days, I was more tired than I knew I could be. I sang with Dusty Spring­field and sewed and glued and pow­dered and greased. I stopped return­ing calls. I stopped sleep­ing much. I want­ed to make these for you. You need­ed to have them. I know how bad you always want­ed to fly. I thought these might just be the thing.

I don’t know how to describe to you what it felt like to fin­ish. It felt like some kind of deep wak­ing up. I felt so proud to have come by all of those mate­ri­als myself, and I kind of think you would have been proud, too.

Are you doing okay? Are you cook­ing more? Do you think you might for­give me one day?

The wings were beau­ti­ful, Al. Just moth­er­fuck­ing gor­geous. I couldn’t believe they were born of my hands, those use­less lit­tle machines; who knew what they could do all along? As soon as I’d stitched the last stitch and revved the engine, the wings start­ed to expand, to breathe, to grow. It was some Franken­stein shit. I start­ed to pan­ic. I was like, oh god, if Al were here, she’d. But I didn’t know what you’d do! Because the hon­est truth is, I nev­er would have built you these wings had you not left. And I think in some strange way, I need­ed to build them. They kept grow­ing. I felt the space in the garage get­ting small­er as the wings grew and grew. They took the oxy­gen from the room. They were regal and huge. They felt exag­ger­at­ed and wrong.

Pan­ick­ing, I turned back to the PDF, which, thank­ful­ly, I had saved. I ripped to the last page. You can see it, and I can imag­ine you telling me I should have read through the whole thing before get­ting start­ed. When your wings are com­plete, take them out­side imme­di­ate­ly. They can­not breathe or thrive indoors and they will become agi­tat­ed if you don’t move them imme­di­ate­ly.

Agi­tat­ed wings.

I dragged the wings out­side then. I know the whole thing sounds fun­ny, but you got­ta believe me, Al, it wasn’t fun­ny. It had got­ten down­right scary. The wings felt alive, like they want­ed to flap or fold. The yel­low got whiter. It wasn’t roman­tic any­more. They no longer felt like penance. They felt like ene­my.

I pulled and snagged at the wire edges that had gone from limp hang­er to taut mus­cle, primed for flight. I pushed and twist­ed so that we’d all three fit through the half-open garage door. We got stuck. I sucked in my gut and I pulled. I ducked. The wings were like a hot mag­net. They pushed me down so hard I felt like I couldn’t breathe. “We’re going, we’re get­ting out of here,” I told them, like they could hear me. Maybe they could. Final­ly, Al, we popped out of there, one wiry bone at a time.

I braced myself then. I clenched each fist and held each wing as tight­ly as I dared and wait­ed to see if and how we would fly. I didn’t know then how I would get your wings to you, but I knew we three would fig­ure it out some­how.

I want­ed to give you beau­ty. My moth­er could nev­er abide a woman named Al, and that’s the first thing I ever felt bad about.

And then here’s what hap­pened, Al. They didn’t fly at all. They did some­thing total­ly dif­fer­ent. Don’t both­er, I know what you’re doing right now, but it’s not in the PDF. It’s nowhere. I got out­side with them and they only got big­ger. They got big­ger and big­ger and the sky felt yel­low. I felt inside the yel­low sky. I felt like I was drown­ing in it. I said I was sor­ry, I said to the wings, like they were pun­ish­ing me for what I did to you. I meant it, I said. I still love her, I whis­pered.

I did not lie, not even once.

But the wings did not fly. They sat there, beat­ing, buzzing soft­ly in my hands. They start­ed to get heav­ier. They got heav­ier and heav­ier. They grew so heavy that I had to sit down on the grass and they grew heav­ier still. We lay down, the wings and I.

I could smell your toma­to plants just start­ing to come up. I’ve been water­ing them for you, just in case. Even though I nev­er used to.

Then, just like that, the wings jerked from me. Just when I was start­ing to relax a lit­tle under the dark­en­ing sky with my strange cre­ation, they leapt from my hands. They did not fly, though. They plum­met­ed.

You know that valleyed spot between our gar­den and Chris and Lily’s, behind us? Where the dirt was bald­ing and the grass was always most even for bar­be­ques? The wings went straight for that spot. They opened, and for real, Al, for just a sec­ond, it was the most god­damned beau­ti­ful thing I have ever seen. Like a fire made out of fab­ric and bone. Like flight was actu­al­ly human­ly pos­si­ble. Like any­thing was. I start­ed cry­ing, for you and for us and for every­thing.

And then, all rage, they went down real hard. They flung them­selves insis­tent­ly against the bald grass. It was like they were glitch­ing. I didn’t know what do. And I’m embar­rassed to admit this part, but I was so scared by then that I just total­ly ran. I went in through the back, not want­i­ng to pass back through that garage, and stared at the phone, not sure whether I should call Ani­mal Con­trol or the police or, how I wished, you. Not that I have your new num­ber, but in that moment, even wrong things felt pos­si­ble.

I was there so long inert and on guard that I fell asleep. Right there at the kitchen table, drink­ing a soda (I know, I start­ed again) and star­ing at the phone and the clock and the win­dow. I woke up to the red of the oven clock. 3:04, it said. AM. I held my breath and went back out­side.

Al. The wings were gone. They were total­ly gone. But instead of feel­ing upset, I sud­den­ly felt lighter. Had they gone to you? I mean, yeah, it could have been all the late-night inter­net search­ing and wing-build­ing going to my head, but I felt cer­tain that they’d flown, they’d found you, they’d got­ten to you in ways that I couldn’t. My heart actu­al­ly soared. They’d found you. I’d found you. You’d know I’d found you. You’d maybe con­sid­er. You’d maybe for­give.

Cau­tious­ly, I walked toward the val­ley. I looked down there at the ground where I’d last seen those strange wings I’d built you. They were gone. The grass there was a lit­tle balder. Was it? I blinked in the dark and then I saw it. The bit of wire hang­er pok­ing out from right next to the incline. The shred of yel­low sheet. I blinked again. I picked up a stick and dug down just a lit­tle bit. And more wire hang­er. And more sheet.

Those wings, Al. Those wings. They’d not flown, no. They’d buried them­selves. Com­plete­ly. They nev­er found you. They’re right here.

So here’s this, just this PDF. I sleep even less now, I’m gonna be hon­est with you. I don’t look up weird shit on the inter­net any­more and I can no longer bring myself to water the toma­to plants. I don’t want to think about fly­ing or the fact that any time I send any­thing to this email address, it bounces back to me.

But I’m stub­born, Al, you know I am. It’s why you loved me once. And so I keep think­ing that maybe this time it will be dif­fer­ent.

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

I went through a phase where I couldn’t stop wing­ing things. That is, putting wings on things that hadn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly asked for them. I drew a winged house, a winged tooth­brush, a winged cup of cof­fee. I learned to carve rub­ber stamps and imme­di­ate­ly carved a pair of wings. Clear­ly, flight has been on my mind. I wrote “Attach­ment” par­tial­ly as a response to this unre­lent­ing call, and par­tial­ly because I am obsessed with fin­ish­ing the unfin­ish­able, clos­ing the unclos­able. The unknown is impos­si­bly hard for me, and at the same time (or maybe for this very rea­son) dear­ly beloved. Sto­ries, for me, are the place where swatch­es of mag­ic and mys­tery can make the unknown know­able. Or actu­al­ly, more accu­rate­ly, can make the unknown even less know­able, but more lov­able. In this sto­ry, I’m explor­ing the ways that ener­gy can’t be cut off or stopped or erased. It has to go some­where, to become some­thing, even if we can’t quite know or under­stand what that some­thing is. I’m explor­ing regret, in all of its mon­stros­i­ty and odd, del­i­cate poet­ry. And I’m explor­ing the feroc­i­ty and veloc­i­ty love can find, even after its end­ing.

 

Temim Fruchter is a writer and illus­tra­tor who lives and loves in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Her chap­book of lyric essays, I Want­ed Just To Be Soft, is new­ly released from Anom­alous Press (April 2016). She is also co-founder of the Mount Pleas­ant Poet­ry Project. She believes in mag­ic, col­or, hot noo­dles, and queer pos­si­bil­i­ty. More at www.temimfruchter.wordpress.com.