It's as if the eruption of cheers from the stadium was loud enough to erase the pain.
Because I don't feel it — the knife — as the blade sinks into my chest. I saw the flash of silver as you drew it from its sheath on your belt. I heard the whistle of air as it drew near. I feared the whorl of emotion I could see in your eyes as your lips curled into a grimace for the strike. But death itself is an easy dance. The entire world explodes at the moment of impact and then it all recedes — sound, colour, time, perception, space. They each pirouette and then fold into one another until all that's left is a sensation of floating through a gauzy veil of light. It is a place where the freedom I have always claimed as my own takes possession of me. And it is the most commanding lover I have ever known.
* * * * *
Love. It is a rebellious bird that cannot be tamed. It's the song I've long sung. But no one has ever gotten the translation quite right.
Must the bird who flies free fly alone?
I watched them, once, as I walked a pass through the mountains southeast of Seville. An alpine swift painted the air with its wings as it looped and dove on updrafts of hot summer. It cut a strong and sure course across the blue and just as I was about to marvel at its solo flight, a second came into view.
Swifts spend little time on the ground. Their short, thick legs are designed to grip vertical surfaces, and their powerful bodies can keep them aloft for months at a time. They were born for the sky. “It is a lonely existence,” my grandmother would lament when we would catch sight of one circling high above on our walks home from the market when I was a girl.
But these two, on this day, danced in the air. They wove back and forth, faster and higher, then plunged downward in a spiral, taking turns leading the chase for the ground before pulling up hard for another ascent. There was space between them but each knew where the other was; it was what made their daring, unpredictable flight so compelling. It ignited the sky.
And that, to me, was a portrait of love: Two beings who understood each other’s elemental self and let that self fly just as high as their paired dance through the air.
A rebellious bird may never be tamed, but that does not mean it cannot find its very own rebellious companion.
* * * * *
We danced. We laughed. We fucked. We plunged. We loved.
And then we crashed.
Love. It grounded you and made you want to trade in your wings. It made you want me to trade in mine. I told you the story about the swifts, describing their beautiful, entwined flight. But you couldn’t find it anymore — the beauty of the air. You laid your heart on the ground.
You were determined that mine should be there, too, and so this is how you’ve decided to pin it down — with a blade. You will stake me in place.
A bull dies in the arena behind us at the same moment the life leaks from my eyes.
A bird has been grounded.