Day after day I watched them fly above me darting in and out of my line of sight beyond the longleaf pines until they were gone.
"Come back." I would whisper. "And take me with you." I used to believe my yearning to be a bird had something to do with jealousy before I recognized the absurdity in comparing my desire for freedom and their quest for survival.
If I am a birder, and I wish to claim that I am, I am an inept one, because I am not sure I could point out the specific differences between a raven and a crow beyond the color black. With hawks and eagles, although I've done my research, if one flies directly over my head, I choke. Unable to differentiate before I lose sight, I consider myself an embarrassment to my country of origin. If I only paid more attention to details I would easily identify the most pictured bird in the US of A as the bald eagle, for shards sake. On coins, on paper money, on postage stamps, in the logos of Federal Agencies, and as a shining example prominently pictured on the one and only great seal since 1782. And then there is me, in 2022, in broad daylight, looking up like it's dark, as ignorant as a babe in the woods, longing to be a species I can't even identify. But ask me to do something stupid like a blind taste test between Miracle Whip and Hellman's Mayonnaise and I'll nail it. Go figure.
But I can definitively state the difference between a male and female cardinal. That tidbit of information grabbed me and stuck. If cardinals were humans, it would be the males wearing the bold slinky red dress and the females wearing the dull drab brown t-shirt. I don't know why, but that struck me as odd. I suppose because I am narrowly perceiving sexuality from a human heterosexual standpoint. Find me a bird that would fault me.
So I woke up this morning, low and behold, to find a message. It was not written down. It was not spoken, yet it was clearly understood telepathically from an unknown entity. I am to be gifted a supreme power to become whatever it is I desire to be. It is not like me to be prone to balderdash. But this message was different from anything else I have ever experienced. No joke. It was all consuming in a junkie meets heroine kind of way. Otherwise, the message was vague, about as specific as the contents of my kitchen junk drawer. Typically, when my eyelids open, like most of the world, I am about two drinks into a jag, semi-conscious, half in half out, so I was already in a compromised state, unwilling to deliberate the implications, rendering me ripe for the picking. It was then that I was distracted and pleasantly aroused by the dawn chorus of the blackbirds, and they led me to impulsively decide my fate; "I am going to be a bird. Not just any bird. A fricking big, bad ass, great seal, bald headed, US of A eagle. And I will fly wherever the hell I want without a care. No bills, no taxes, no stinking rules. Just me and the great big endless sky from sunup to sun down, winging it, where there is no such a thing as a dirty job, demanding girlfriends, party affiliations, Kim Kardashian, Sean Hannity or commercials squawking in the background; AFLAC."
And so it was, just like I had made a wish to a genie in a bottle, and away I went. Conveniently, my starting point was a nest, in a tree, right behind my house. Thankfully an empty nest, otherwise my freedom ride would have come with inconvenient complications. It hadn't occurred to me that an eagle could also be a father, or a mother like a human. It has always been my desire to fly solo. The only aisle I want to walk belongs in a retail store. Marriage, children, the whole picket fence minivan thing; not for me.
It might have been a good idea for me to have gotten up and contemplated my thoughts about such a major life decision over a cup of coffee. At the very least, I should have turned on the weather channel. Hindsight is, as they say 20/20, since little did I know, after several hours of sublime soaring, the sky started to darken. It almost didn't matter, because I believe I had already scratched the itch, and released the beast, until the wind began to knock the shit out of me. It was then, just in the nick of time, that my research from when I was a human paid off. Eagles, as it turns out, are the only birds that fly into a storm, using the wind to lift them up to an altitude above the storm. How smart. No wonder they landed their likeness on every dolla-dolla bill.
I had to remind myself a couple of times to rely on what I learned about eagles, instead of the lingering thoughts of my previous human brain where fear makes us do all sorts of weird shit, like avoiding bridges, climbing Mt. Everest, and steering clear of intimate relationships, and it worked. What a rush. It felt like I had been shot out of a circa 1782 cannon grabbing onto the back of a 2022 space shuttle after lift off. It was wild to look at the storm beneath me as I just lifted and lifted up, gliding like a mofo pro. Funny thing was, I never got tired, another advantage of eaglehood. Maybe my rash decision was the best decision I had ever made. Still, I felt curious and that same familiar yearning returned right after I knew the storm had passed. There was this lingering thought, perhaps it was just another nagging human mental atrocity, but it was strong enough to make me want to return to the nest. After all, isn't that what all birds instinctively do anyway?
When I arrived back in my old neighborhood, I realized, it really wasn't the nest I wanted to return to. It was my old bed. I can't say why, because I still wasn't tired. So I thought, "What harm could be done if I plopped down in the nest, and took a peek into my old bedroom through the window? After all, I was now in possession of the proverbial so-called eagle eye. So why not put it to use to quell my curiosity? I wanted to know if there could be someone else sleeping in my bed.
Don't ask me how I knew, but I knew after I took one look. At that point I wasn't sure who had been given the gift of the supreme power. Was it given to me, or was it given to the bald eagle that had lived all those years in the nest right behind my house, because there he was, in my human form, in my old bed. And he wasn't alone. Lying next to him was a beautiful woman. Not just any beautiful woman. It was my ex-girlfriend. The one I dumped when she said she wanted to get married and have kids.
But either way, I will have to assume things worked out exactly as they were meant to be, because suddenly my yearning stopped. It was replaced by extreme hunger. I flew off, away from my old life, hunting for a small mammal without a care except for the conundrum of how the meat was going to taste without any mayo.