She stood in the middle of a field in the park, and the wind stretched everything, her dress, hair and copper skin, horizontal. It threatened to tear the flesh from her bones and she stood there, embracing it.
I saw her in that same spot every day for three weeks, bathing in the wind and sun. She caught me staring and asked me to join her.
Six months later, we moved in together. I wanted to rent a small apartment, but she talked me into buying a house with her. We found a fixer upper with nice bones in an old neighborhood on the east side of town where people still talk to each other and hold block parties and know their neighbors’ names.
I carried the last box in from the truck and met her on the front porch. She stared into me with her eyes like two pools of murky green seawater and kissed me on the cheek. I took her hand and our fingers intertwined.
She kissed me on the lips and then climbed the tree in front of the house and spent the next hour staring at the stars. She asked me to join her, but I had to unpack the boxes.
She spent every free moment in that tree, climbing and staring out over the city.
A few weeks later, a television commercial caught her eye. An overly excited man with bleached tips and a polo shirt promised viewers the world and more, for just $19.95 plus shipping and handling.
He held two silk, triangular sheets in his hand. But, they were no ordinary sheets, he promised.
They were angel wings, bought in bulk from God himself during a fire sale. The entrance fee to Heaven had dropped drastically in the last couple of years, with all of the indiscriminate sinning here on Earth, and God needed to make up for his shrinking coffers.
The wings, he said, opened up a world of possibilities. Anyone could travel to Spain, Japan or Australia without worrying about the cost of airfare. Just strap on your wings and fly away.
She called the hotline and paid $19.95 plus shipping and handling. She called back the next day and ordered a pair for me, too.
Once she placed the order, she slept no more than a few hours each night. She waited on the wooden porch of our small house from morning until dusk, staring out into the street.
On the third day after she ordered the wings, I asked Eloise if she was going to leave me. She smiled and kissed me on the cheek.
We sat at the dinner table, the next night, and I asked her again, but she would not eat or look me in the eye. She looked out the window and said no—she only wanted to take trips to Machu Picchu and Mount Everest and Kuala Lumpur—she wanted to do it all with me.
I said I would go as often as I could, but I knew I was lying. I couldn’t just fly away.
She quit her job at the supermarket the day after the wings arrived and flew around the house all day, getting the hang of it. At first she could only hover a few feet off the ground, but after a few days she could reach the ceiling.
Every time she touched the ceiling, she’d fall to the carpet. Her wrists and legs and arms were covered with bumps and bruises by the end of the night.
She begged me to try mine on, so I did. I learned to hover above the ground, but I wouldn’t go up to the roof because I was afraid I would fall.
The next day, I saw her standing on a thick branch near the top of the tree. I told her not to jump. I told her to take those silly wings off and come be with me. She asked me to meet her up there. It’s time to leave, she said.
She jumped and hovered for a few seconds. She hovered like she did near the ceiling and then she began to fall all the same. She fell and her body cut through the air with a whoosh, the wings flapping like pages.
She fell and I didn’t know if I could catch her. She was falling right towards me, so fast I thought her body would slice through mine.
Then the wings came to life. They became rigid and pumped back and forth and she rose into the sky. I shielded my eyes as she disappeared into the sun.
After that, she ventured off to nearby cities and towns nearly every day. I came home to an empty house night after night. I made dinner for us both and put her plate in the refrigerator and went to bed. I pretended to sleep when, hours later, she crawled in next to me, breasts heaving in and out, stinking of anardana or curry or turmeric.
On the rare nights when we sat on the porch together, I tried to talk to her, but she looked past me with glassy eyes at the stars above. I am going to touch them, she said. I am going to hold onto them until they tear me apart. Come with me.
You’re going to leave me, I said.
I can’t leave you now, because I’ve already left. But, you can come with me. She wrinkled up the corner of her mouth. She touched her chest with her hand and then reached out and rubbed mine.
I grabbed her hand with both of mine and squeezed until my knuckles turned white.
Just stay with me, I said.
We’re a million miles apart.
With that, she sucked in a deep breath and jumped into the sky. Her ascent cracked the wind like a whip. I looked straight up, but all I could see was a trail of vapor and thousands of tiny stars.
I walked inside and made dinner. I didn’t make her a plate. I knew there’d be no more strange scents of spices sticking to her skin, just the smell of burning hydrocarbons dancing in the air.
Sometimes I roll over in bed at night and breathe into her pillow, because the smells she brought home still survive there. I close my eyes tight and picture her the way she was before she left. I picture the trips that are now stained into the pillowcase, and I can see her spinning, smiling, living.
On those nights, I sometimes I walk outside and climb the tree. I stare up at the stars. If I see one moving, I plead to whoever is listening that it’s her, and I feel like we’re together again. I feel like there’s no distance between us. I feel like, even though she’s gone, there’s no space between us at all.