Used to think, as a child, “I must’ve been a bird in a previous life”. Nothing made me rest as easy as wind flapping around me. I’d roll down the windows of all moving cars and stick my head out devilmaycarelessly unless instructed otherwise – and then I’d still sneak at least my whole face out. I don’t love rollercoasters quite as much, though, so I must not have been a bird of prey.
It was escapism I enjoyed, I’m sure. Being hastily taken away from wherever I was and fully wrapped in a gauzy airy cocoon. Wonderfully removed. However, I find my soul seems to return time and time again to wherever there is water. As I write this I’m perched atop a rock, much like the seagulls staring off into the distance upon old docking remains on Brooklyn’s side of the East River, and so I wonder if perhaps that is precisely what I was: a seagull.
I don’t enjoy the ocean – or the river or any large body of water for that matter – as much as I enjoy air. Must be the consistency of it. That soft, fabric-like quality of being fully draped in fast moving wind is way more soothing – at least to me – than the pulsating embrace of water. Maybe it’s my reasons for liking air. Like I said, it’s escapism, it’s about jetting right off the face of the Earth, disappearing into thin or not-so-thin air. Whereas being immersed in water is a very present experience. You’re aware of every inch of your body because surrounding water exerts pressure on it.
The seagulls are mostly gone now. A few are still scattered further from the shore, as if wishing to make their way over to Manhattan undetected. I see you, seagulls. Your bright white coats will hardly go unnoticed, I’m afraid. Could I then have been one of you when I so often go unseen? And how would that have worked for me, being part of a flock, when I am rarely ever the gregarious creature? Prone to loneliness as I am, how does that work. I see some of you drifting apart but never truly away from the rest. There’s a sense of cohesion of all parts even as they scatter over a larger space over time. Me, I’m alone right now. As alone as can be even though there’s an entire African American family making their way across the rocks in front of me. The daughter is beautiful, though maybe much too young for me to make such remarks. Or maybe not. I’m a gay bird, either way.
The water does give me something, though. Or rather it takes something away. My restlessness licked clean off by the mere presence of rolling, living water. It’s unlike anything I know. I’d go mental without it, I know. How does anybody live in-land, locked away in the dirt? I’d die. So I wonder if perhaps my breathing has deceived me. Perhaps I was an underwater creature and I simply cannot remember what it was like to breathe a different way. Even when I think of water now, I hold my breath. How could I ever imagine a life without air.
I take a deep, deep breath now. Inhale all I can take, as if all this underwater talk has triggered some sort of impending-oxygen-deprivation anxiety. I make no sense, I know. I’m just kind of alone right now and most of the seagulls have flown away where I can’t follow. I sit here daydreaming about taking off, taking flight but that’s just it, I’m still here. I know very well I can’t fly.
But I know I sure as hell can sink.