Short Story: Flying across Oceans
Special to the Armenian Weekly
The Cranes had tried, several times, to bring new life into the world, but failed.
Mrs. Crane suggested that perhaps Mr. Crane leave her and try his luck with another willing female. “I know having children is important to you, I don’t want you to resent me,” she had declared one spring afternoon. Mrs. Crane realized her suggestion reinforced the martyr complex she had grown weary of, but she meant it.
He listened, knowing that his reaction was and would be surveyed, then analyzed, and then analyzed once more. He took her head gently into his chest and crooned her favorite song. Their love of harmony had been the catalyst for their maiden conversation. He had sang for her by the shallow wetlands. She responded, quite cheekily with a tune herself. The rest was sorted.
“As long as we’re together, I’m the luckiest male in the world.” And with that anecdotal compliment, Mr. Crane had put his lovely life-partners’ worry to a momentary rest.
Their love was intense, and in due time their passion for one another was rewarded with a beautiful set of twins. They co-parented beautifully. He was the worrier, she was pragmatic. Both felt their life had purpose now, and they would catch each other staring at the twins, with admiration blanketing their young.
She was proud of the nest she had built. It hadn’t been easy. If she had one strong characteristic, it was her resourcefulness. She had once overheard that Scorpios were often resourceful. Mrs. Crane didn’t know what a Scorpio was, but she liked identifying as one. It made her feel exotic, a far cry from her very matter-of-fact existence. Her home was cozy: a suitable place where her little ones would be provided for and supported until they would be strong enough to just pick up and go.
She had gifted two miniature versions of herself into the world, and she often worried about them. She was told they resembled her in looks and personality, but all she could see in their little faces was her significant other.
Their romanticized, postcard-worthy existence was often compromised. Mr. Crane couldn’t provide his family with what he thought they deserved, though not for lack of trying. His sharpened sense of frugality made him feel both proud and defeated. He routinely worried about the future, as sadness started to play a weightier role in his day-to-day life. He loved his offspring uncontrollably. That same love proved to be the stepping stone toward his insecurities. Was he worthy of being a father? A mate?
He had flown far, far away with the hopes of recalibrating his reality, finding a more suitable place to live. A place “worthy enough for my beautiful family.” A place where shelter came easy, the weather was serene, and all they would have to worry about was what kind of protein they would devour for breakfast. He had gone with the promise of returning, and she managed to find comfort in that.
Mrs. Crane had tried to make him understand that things would probably never be ideal. Life wasn’t supposed to be constant bliss. Whatever hardships they encountered, they were strong enough as a pair to make it work. She could have spent more time scavenging the streets, finding useful knickknacks and such. He could have looked for work with the undesirable crowd, showing off his pitch and charm for the humans huddled around park benches all across the city. They were known to offer bread and salty snacks to performers who would saunter past their feet. He didn’t listen, he was stubborn. Filled with too much pride. He believed the answer was waiting somewhere else, someplace different.
She often felt alone. She had moved quite a lot during her life. She had met some fine living souls, souls she would even consider sharing secrets with. But they were scattered all around the world. She couldn’t locate them even if she tried. Whenever her reality got too overwhelming, she would chirp the same song her husband chirped when he tried to comfort her. She had a beautiful singing voice, and anytime she produced a song the foot traffic beneath them would come to a halt as the passersby would raise their heads and admire the melody.
They lived near the airport. She could see the impressive chrome-plated sign from her stoop. She loved examining the people coming in and out of those big, shiny glass doors. She would often make up stories about each of them.
The couple holding hands saying farewell were star-crossed lovers. She gave them an imaginary makeover to assist with the improvised fiction. The tall man was wearing a navy brimmed hat. The woman was wearing a charming sequined skirt. Their respective families never showed an inclination to be cordial, and forbade them from starting a life together. She had the luxury of bearing witness to the last time the couple would ever hold each other in their arms. He was moving away. Flying across oceans. He couldn’t bear live so close to his soulmate knowing they couldn’t wake up to each other. She quit her job, abandoned her hobbies, muted her passions. She would never entertain the idea of companionship with anybody ever again.
Mrs. Crane set her glare on an ivory-haired, heavyset man with impressive bags under his eyes. He was in the process of hailing a cab. She decided his name was Steve. Steve had been adopted, a secret unlatched and communicated to him on his 18th birthday. He desperately wanted to learn the language of his birth parents, but it proved too difficult. Who would teach him? He had managed to learn how to say hello, and he offered the greeting confidently to the man who was maneuvering to make room for the suitcases in his trunk. When Steve was younger, he hated that he looked so different from his peers at school. All of them fair-skinned, with light eyes. His hair the shade of coffee. His eyes chestnut brown. As he grew older, he decided to research his family origin and fell in love with its history, culture, food. It was his first time laying eyes on where his people had come from. The old man started to get teary-eyed, missing the parents he had never met.
Mrs. Crane was ready to take a break from the unknowing subjects and their various story arcs when she spotted a young boy sprinting out of the airport. The boy dropped his luggage, kneeled down, and kissed the pavement. The boy howled “I’m home, I’m home!” She couldn’t help but feel bad for him. That specific spot was under a huge tree, and she had witnessed firsthand a group of roughnecks squeezing out their waste from above. She realized that the cleansing action had to be done, but have some class, she thought. There were ample places where that conduct would not be seen. She hated all things tacky, and she moved her beak side to side in pity as the young boy smooched the shit-stained sidewalk.
Over the course of her time spent by the impressive chrome-plated sign, she started to notice more people than usual making their way toward the building. More crying, more luggage, more disheartened looks. She would often hear more goodbyes than hellos. She remembered saying goodbye to her husband, and how she didn’t want to cry in front of him. He had a long journey ahead, and she didn’t want him to be worried. She assured him they’d be fine, and wished him a speedy return.
When most other mothers on the block were probably fast asleep, she would be perched on her usual spot. Her little ones fast sleep just outside her field of vision, her stare fixated on the same path in the sky where he had flown away that sad afternoon.
She would issue forth her melancholy song as the groups of people below would walk toward the shiny glass doors. They would start to cry. As they hugged and kissed each other, they would hear her voice. They would look up at her, at her unassuming home, and start to cry even more.
She was convinced that the pain she felt on her own quill must be palpable. She thought of happy times. She thought how Mr. Crane would say something like, “They’re crying because your voice is so bad it’s hurting their feelings!” Always so sarcastic.
She’d had enough of feeling sorry for herself for that specific night. She nestled her body on top of the twins. Mrs. Crane veiled her ears with her stained feathers, trying to drown out the sadness rising from below.
Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: Short Story: Flying across Oceans