Fiction / Temim Fruchter
:: Attachment ::
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.
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.