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The Secret Song

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The Secret Song


We are on an airplane, the kind you said you would never go on. The engines are humming to their mechanical beat, and the re-circulated air is arid and stale. I take the seat next to the window that you are too scared to sit by, but I don't mind. Your hand slides over into mine and squeezes. You love me. You don't say so, but I can always tell with you.
It's mutual. It's us.

'Just hold on,' I say. 'Soon we'll be up in the air.' I almost add, 'and free as a bird' but that's clich' and you hate that kind of thing. So instead I smile reassuringly and that's enough.

It's still dark outside and I'm glad you can't see out the window. It's scary enough your first time without having to look out at the fog running marathon races over the wings and chemicals that keep the ice off dripping down onto the tarmac. I slide the little shade on the window down, even though it's comforting for me to have it open and look at those kinds of things. If you believe in something you don't have to see it to know it's there. That's what you told me so that's what I believe.

The jets start powering up, heaving and sighing, and before I even think about looking out the window again we're in the air. The sensation of lifting off the ground is fantastic, and it seems like the plane weighs nothing even though it obviously does. Your hand squeezes tighter, but this time it's in excitement. You don't say so, of course, but I can always tell.

Tentatively I open the shade back up, and we're already above the clouds. The sun has nowhere to hide up here. No restrictions, no boundaries. Its light explodes in all directions, turning the clouds all pink and bloody. It's beautiful and vicious. I turn to ask you something but I forget the second I see your expression. It's so full of wonder and intensity that I can hardly describe it. It's the face people make when they encounter something so amazing they can't even comprehend how it could have been created, like seeing the Taj Mahal or a platypus. Only in this case we were in a plane for the first time the day the universe opened up and swallowed us whole.

The plane continues its upward inflection, and by the time I finally follow your gaze out the window we're in space and it's all shadows and midnight like we never even left the ground. The planets are the exception and saturated in color. My favorite is Saturn because the rings match the color of your eyes. It's embarrassing to have always thought they were just white beads of light, their identities equal to the surrounding stars.

It's embarrassing to have thought it didn't matter either way.

The engines of the plane sputter and finally die, and it was in this silent abyss that you kiss me. The constellations freeze as my own world does the same. We lean forward in our seats to be a part of them, hoping to grasp maybe just a little piece of heaven for our own. Instead we reach too far, falling through the floor of the cabin, tumbling through the sky and into a sea that shimmers in violet and teal. The water wraps around us like liquid sugar, and you reach out to hold me so I won't get away. A mermaid appears, her hair shining like finely spun gold. She lifts us up, and it is her touch that brings our wings bursting from our backs. We glide in between the galaxies, content and laughing.

"Do you believe me now?" I say. "Even the birds envy us from their cages." I avoid the clich' again, barely, but you like that, smiling like you did before you had any reason not to. There is a clear ringing in my ears, and I realize the mermaid has resurfaced from the sea and is singing. Soon a million more join her, their voices fierce and hypnotic in their harmony. "It's our lullaby," I say as you wrap your arms around me. "Our secret song."

It's the kind of perfection that seems to end all too quickly, but we hold onto it long after the sirens sink back into the sea, sending purple-blue ribbons in their wake. I am sad to see them go, though it is bittersweet: their song may have ended, but now it was ours to keep forever.
We finally come to rest on a bed of stardust, staring up at the asteroids and meteors spinning lazily like they have nothing better to do than dance for us. Far away, in a different universe, you spot a glistening super nova so bright it must be made of diamonds. You nod your head slowly, promising you'll just be a minute. I smile casually back, even though I'm certain the relief in my eyes is giving me away.

You take off immediately, and I don't even watch you leave because if I believe in something I don't have to see it to know you're there. This time you'll come back. That's what you told me. That's what I believe.
Though I can't help but wonder what it will feel like when you stop promising

Liberated, I say, more to myself than anything. I will live in this paradise with you forever, as long as you keep whispering your love for me and the sirens' melody never leaves my heart. It doesn't matter to me anymore.
Nobody. The word echoes into space, probably to continue on for an eternity. Nobody can hold us back.

I turn my head and stare at the giant star long enough to burn the image into my retinas. No, I'll never hold you back, little bird. It comes out in a dead whisper. I will not be the one who holds back your wings.

Even if it is to keep you from flying away.





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