This is the part where the fish finally understands why he could never dive deep. The part where he stops picking the feathers from his body, where he pulls his body from the water, unfurls, and takes off into the sky.
At least that’s how I think the story would go, if ever such a story existed.
In a college counselor meeting, I was asked, “If you could be a learner of any thing, no matter how specific, no matter if it isn’t and will never be a course– what study would you choose to devote your life to?”
I thought about that particular freckle of plot. The ending that isn’t. The beginning that ends. The fish that birds. The un-ending, the un-fin, the un-finning, the unfurling.
I would have devoted my life to that, and though no certification proves it, I have.
In a college counselor meeting, I was asked, “What is your 5-year-plan?”
I was young enough then to have an answer. I am old enough now to revel in the delight of how wrong I had it.
Who could envision everything that has come to pass?
Five years ago, on July 17th, I left prison. Shook myself from that caged water, picked the barbwire from my goosebumps, and unfurled.
The end of a story, but of course it isn’t because we storylisteners know what happens to a bird that could live so well as a fish.
It gets picked from the sky, falls through clouds. Nobody likes a different thing.
Where do you belong when your feathers have not grown back? How do you move forward when everyone can still smell the sea on your still slick skin? When your body muscles so much like a swimmer that you cannot lift a cloud?
A featherless, flightless bird sits by a riverbank.
He lovingly brushes his feathers as they grow in. Hello, friend, he tells them. Welcome. The sky looks like sea to him, the sea reflects clouds. Some days, the rock slips him closer to the water. Some days, he jumps so high he could be flying. Everything is home, or could be.
This is a beginning, but not if it comes at the end of a 5-year-plan, because then it is an ending.
Either way, it is a hopeful thing. I do not have a certification for this, but I am certain.
I have devoted my life to this learning, to the identification and measurement of hope. I see it in the wild, all the time. I would be a scientist if they counted stories as case studies.
I could be a bird if these feathers would just grow in. If I could just un-sea, un-gill. Un-fin.
I would have a 5-year-plan if I were 5 years younger. It would be just as hopeful, even knowing everything that was to come.
This is the part where we find out what the girl does with everything she’s learned to carry. The part where she sets it down, lays it all out, and only takes what she’ll need for the next step. All the hope, certainly. But what else?