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Forgetting how to Fly

Arielle Friedman is a writer, activist, and journalist based out of Montreal.

Alan gazed at the sidewalk as he walked to work. A shadow moved past him, blocking out the sun and dancing on the sidewalk ahead. A ball of anger filled his chest. I'm not going to look up. Why give them the satisfaction? He held out for ten seconds, then lifted his head. It was a woman, and she didn't even have the decency to be young. Her grey hair flowed around her naked shoulders. She was facing the sky, oblivious to him and all the walkers down below.
He raised his wristphone to his mouth.
"Police," he commanded. "I'd like to report an urban flyer. Yes, I'll hold."
He felt a twist in his stomach. How long had it been since his last hit? He began clawing through his pockets with his left hand--jeans, jacket, shirtfront--how many pockets could he have?
His call connected. "Hello officer, my name is Alan Richards. Yes, I'm reporting an urban flyer at Sherbrook and Lawrence. Older woman, mid-fifties, long grey hair. She seems to be taunting those of us down below. Yes, completely naked, any child could see her." He found his pack in his back pocket. "My number is 4436-A32. Can you let me know if you catch her? Thank you."
His hands trembled as he hung up. His stomach twisted and sank in a telltale manner, like he'd swallowed a black hole which was sucking up his insides. He reached for his vial. As soon as he touched it the tremors stopped. He twisted off the cap, placed a stick from his pack into the amber liquid and placed the other end into his mouth. He activated his lighter and lowered the end of the stick into the blue flame.
The warmth spread through his body like a liquid, its edge a hot knife cutting his body with pleasure. He closed his eyes and sucked deeply from the stick between his lips. He felt himself soaring through space and time, all eternity at his fingertips, the past a wisp of air trailing behind.
The rush subsided. He clung to its remnants as he stamped the ash beneath his toe. It was a good hit.
He looked up. She was gone, but he was sure the authorities would find her.
He resumed walking, eyes back on the sidewalk. What was the penalty for urban flying these days? A fine and community service? Alan hoped they raised it to jail time. The flyers didn't seem to be getting the message.
He arrived at work and took another hit outside the front entrance. He hardly felt this one, but he needed one before work to keep himself balanced.
Once at his desk, he had trouble focusing on accounting. He kept seeing the woman, her body spread out above him. How had she managed to retain her flying for so long? At that age, even a tiny habit would have destroyed her abilities.
He recalled his youth, when his habit had been small and his flying intact, minus a few balance problems. He remembered how glorious it felt to take a hit and fly over the city, wobbling into the sunset. Back then urban flying had been a bylaw infraction, not a criminal offense.
He sighed and tried to focus on spreadsheets. It was no use. He got up and pulled on his jacket. He'd allow himself a quick hit and five minutes of reminiscing, then he'd get back to work.
That night Alan stood on his balcony, staring out over the city. The wind whipped past his face and through his hair. He closed his eyes and imagined he was flying. Tears leaked from the corners of his eyes, torn from him by the wind. He'd had so many hits that they no longer felt like anything, nothing more than a heaviness that kept him stranded on the ground.
His wristphone rang. The police.
"Hello? Yes, this is Alan. Wonderful! I hope you throw the book at her. Of course, it's up to the courts. Thank you for letting me know; it's much appreciated. Good evening to you as well, sir."
They'd apprehended the flying woman. He knew he should be happy, but he felt numb.
He hoped she'd learn her lesson.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Author Comments

This story came from thoughts and conversations I'd been having on the topic of addiction. I was interested in how individual psychology and social/political context play into each other.

- Arielle Friedman
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