Dreams About the Sky
by Mark Kiewlak
“I have dreams about the sky,” Manuel said. “That’s why I have to do this.”
“I don’t understand,” Lucy said. “I don’t understand any of this, and I’m not sure you do either.”
Manuel took another step closer to the ledge. Far below was the mountainside and the river and the railway tracks. Manuel stared out into the empty air and smiled. “It’s simple,” he said. “I’m going to fly.”
“Manuel, you’re scaring me.”
“I don’t mean to scare you, Lucy. But this is something I have to do.”
Lucy shook her head. She wanted to move closer to him, but she was paralyzed with fear. This was supposed to have been a nature walk. They had brought a lunch with them. They were supposed to be sitting here on the mountaintop, absorbing the breathtaking view, and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was supposed to have been romantic.
“How is killing yourself something that you have to do?”
Lucy felt the tears coming. She was afraid to cry, afraid of his reaction. Suddenly she was afraid of everything.
There was a bird circling overhead and Manuel stared at it. From this distance he couldn’t make out what type it was, but because of its size and the majesty and assuredness of its flight he guessed that it was an eagle.
“Lucy, don’t you understand? I’m like that bird. I’m free. But I’m only just now realizing it.”
The hot tears were stinging her as she replied: “Can’t we just go home? We can talk about it there. We can talk about whatever you like.”
Manuel smiled again and lifted his arms to the wind. “Lucy, I can’t talk about it. I don’t need to. The doubts are behind me. Now is the time for me to actually do this thing. This thing I’ve always known I could do.”
There was a great tension in her arms and legs and she was having trouble breathing. “Manuel, you’ll die.”
“No, I won’t. Just the opposite. For the first time I’ll begin to live.”
He could see that his words were providing no comfort. He wanted to step back, to move to her, to embrace her as he had done so many times over the years. But he couldn’t. Now that he was so close, he couldn’t chance taking a step backward, even for her. This made him sad, and Lucy caught the change in his expression.
“What is it?” she said. “You’ve changed your mind?”
“No,” Manuel said. “I’ve resolved that I’m not going to change my mind.”
“Oh, God. Oh, God, help us.”
Manuel noticed that the sky was flawless today. Not empty of clouds, but rather containing just the right balance of cloud and sky — a bright blue landscape that Mankind had thus far dared to explore only while inside the comfort of machines.
“Lucy,” he said, “please listen to me. Lucy, I love you. You’re everything to me. You know that.”
“I don’t know anything. Five minutes ago I knew. How could you have hidden it so well — this insanity...”
“Lucy, I’m not insane. You wouldn’t be anywhere near this scared if you thought I was insane. It’s only because you know that I’m not...”
“Please stop talking,” Lucy said. “Please. I can’t deal with this. If you’re going to jump, jump. Just get it over with. I’ll grieve. Maybe someday I’ll understand. But I can’t deal with this. I feel like I’m going to explode from being trapped in this moment with you.”
The bird circled closer and Manuel saw that indeed it was an eagle. It was comforting to think that he wouldn’t have to be alone out there his first time out.
“We all have the potential to do extraordinary things,” he said. “All we have to do is believe in ourselves. We’re always evolving. Someday this was going to happen. A breakthrough of this magnitude. Why not today?”
“Manuel, I can’t listen. I can’t listen anymore.”
“I’ll make you a promise then. I won’t do this thing until you calm down and stop crying. Until you believe in it too. I won’t go until you’re sure that you won’t be losing me.”
His words came to Lucy as if through a haze. He was promising not to do this thing. As long as she didn’t believe him, he wouldn’t do it. And yet she had to ask the question: “How could I not lose you? You’re going to jump off a cliff. Do you expect to survive the fall?”
He had not turned to look at her. He held his gaze upon the sky. Now he took another step closer to it. He wanted to see her face, her beautiful, tear-stained face, but her eyes had a way of betraying him sometimes, of talking him out of the things he knew to be true, simply because she herself didn’t believe them.
“I’ve always talked about mankind’s untapped potential,” Manuel said. “I’ve always told you that the controls are all in our heads. We determine what we will be. We decide all that will happen to us. I’ve been a student and an artist and a philosopher and a teacher, and I can tell you, it’s all the same. Everyone holds themselves back for their own reasons. This is a leap of faith. This is tomorrow, and I’m going to show you that you don’t have to hold back. I believe in it, Lucy. And the love we have is a large part of the reason why I believe.”
Lucy was angry with him for not turning to face her. She deserved that much at least. “Our love? How can this be about love? You didn’t discuss it with me. You lied about why we were coming out here.”
“I didn’t lie. I didn’t know. Until we stepped out of the woods and climbed to this precipice I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
“Manuel, we have a life together. A home. We love each other.”
Manuel gazed down at the river. The water flowed in only one direction. He knew that he must do the same.
“I know that you believe in me,” he said. “I know that you’re scared. This is a big step. But this is who I am. I can do this. Lucy, stop being afraid just for one moment and imagine it were true. Just allow yourself a mental image, however fleeting, of this endeavor being successful.”
“Because you’re scared.”
“Because all I can see is you lying there dead at the bottom. That’s what my imagination is telling me.”
“Everyone is used to thinking that way,” Manuel said. “But nothing would ever change if we didn’t have the ability to entertain new thoughts. So I’m asking you to push that negativity from your mind and picture something more pure and beautiful. Don’t let the doubt make you afraid. Don’t let it control you. Just recognize it and accept it.”
Lucy tightened her fists and started to hate the whole world. “I want to go home,” she said.
“Then trust me when I say that this is the only way we’ll ever get there.”
“You can’t make me do this,” she said. “God, how can you do this to me? How will I ever trust anyone again?”
Manuel looked down at his feet. Would he need to run and jump? Or could he simply step into the air and ascend like an angel?
“Manuel, just come down from there. Please. I’ll never doubt you again. I’ll listen to all your theories. I won’t be bored or indifferent. I’ll try harder to understand the things you understand. I’ll try to see the world the way you want me to. Just please come down. Please don’t do this.”
“I love you, Lucy.”
“Don’t say that.”
“I love you.”
“I love you and I’ll always love you.”
“Manuel, shut up please.”
“You put yourself here for a reason. That’s what I believe. No one is a victim in this world. Everyone chooses where they will be and what they’ll be doing. There are no surprises.”
“I didn’t ask for this.”
“Lucy, just picture the sky with me in it. Picture me flying and laughing and sailing across this canyon to those mountains on the other side. Imagine being closer to the sun. Imagine that freedom. Imagine the world and how different it will look. It’s not an arrogant thing to be free. It doesn’t make you better than anyone else. It just makes you free.”
Lucy was calming down despite herself. Manuel had always possessed the power to implant images in her head with his words and he was doing so again. She fought against it, but she began to see what he saw. He seemed so sure. And the idea was so beautiful.
“Manuel, I... maybe afterwards we can eat lunch. The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”
Manuel grinned. “You brought my favorite.”
“I’m still afraid,” Lucy said.
“The world we’ve built is so small,” Manuel said. “Such a tiny corner of all there is. Maybe that’s why we fight so much amongst ourselves. Because we’re all jammed into this small space and it’s nerve-racking. It drives us insane because we can see that there’s so much more out there right in front of us, but we can’t get to it. We can’t let ourselves go. It’s too much to hope for. We’re so used to being trapped.”
She still could not see his face, but everything was softer now. The wind was gentle and the sun was warming her. Her arms were loosening up. She saw the eagle and saw him staring at it.
“I don’t feel trapped with you,” she said.
That was all Manuel needed. An invisible, tangible push. The fearlessness of love.
He smiled and stepped out over the edge of the cliff.
Copyright © 2009 by Mark Kiewlak