Once you have tasted flight,
you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,
for there you have been,
and there you will always long to return.
Leonardo da Vinci
He leaned his body into his arm and pushed the throttle forward. It moved slowly through the tension of air and fuel. The engined came alive and he felt it in his chest. He looked at her by his side. Her cold hands gripped his forearm and her eyes closed and her lips pursed. Her sitting beside him in the small Piper Cub was a rare thing. He smiled at her and the giant propeller pulled them along the warm tarmac.
She opened her eyes to the horizon bending in front of them. He pulled the plane to the side and the wing dipped and her stomach dropped, and the tall green grass of the neverending field, rushed by them on their side as he pulled the low morning sun into their view. Her fingertips dug deep into the fresh bumps on his skin.
He looked at her and smiled, “Don’t close your eyes.”
He eased the throttle back and leaned into the wheel dropping the nose just at the edge of the hill that swung down into the woods. The green tops of the trees leaped at them, just missing as he pulled back smoothly on the yoke. The green sea of pine flew by them, the close ones much faster than the rest. He pulled back and gave the engine a push and the engine purred up and away.
In the sky, away from the racing ground, and away from every other day there was, he grabbed her hand and looked at her now more peaceful face, with the warm sun highlighting every soft curve. And he was in love.
As he flew back to the airstrip on the edge of town, he felt the plane pulling him from his chest. He felt the engine in sync with his body, and the purr from the plane continued throughout him. They pulled each other along, the three of them, separate and apart from the rest of the world, suspended together.
At eight years old, he was told that he was too big for the toys he liked. Most of his favorites had already been given to his younger sister. He didn’t complain and he put up no fight, but he felt them missing, and in their place he had nothing. This Christmas was seemingly the first of the rest of his life, where he didn’t want anything—at least, nothing he was allowed to want. The stuffed animals and little animal models were childish, and the prospect of books and shirts and socks at Christmas was all he had.
The snow was falling slowly and as he walked down the sidewalk with his dad, it crunched under his boots. He could see his breath through his scarf and his hands in his pockets propped up his shoulders under his heavy coat. The door knocked across a bell as they walked into the store, and he sat down to wait for his dad.
He stared through the window, watching the snow, and across the street in a storefront window, he saw a large airplane. It was much bigger than the small models he had seen at the department store. It was bright yellow with black stripes, and it was hung in the window leaning down and towards the ground. He could feel its movement and speed as it hung there, and it made his chest tighten. The bell jingled and a breeze flew in and across his face. He ran to the door and through it and across the street. He landed in front of the yellow plane behind the frosted window. Its smooth curves on the tops of the wings stretched its skin perfectly smooth, dipping from one rib to the next. The skeleton of delicate and strong wood shown behind the translucent covering. The Christmas lights from the store blurred through it. He did not know what it all was and what it all did, but he was in love.