The Evolution of Flight

The Evolution of Flight

A Story by

Sometimes I wondered what would happen if Mom knew both her children were gay.


Ever since the dawn of time, humanity has been obsessed with flight. We’d look up into the sky where the birds soared above us and feel a sense of longing. Maybe even envy.

So we spent countless hours, days, months, years, centuries trying to emulate them. From the doomed Icarus to the fighter jets and spacecraft of today, we have sought to conquer the sky as much as we spread over the land and probe the oceans. We’re a curious bunch, and envious bunch. We wanted to find everything, understand everything, own everything.

For all our technological advances, we never learned to truly fly like the birds, soaring under our own power without a metal case around us, choosing when and where our trip would end rather than bowing to the fickle forces of nature whenever she decided to revoke the gift of perfect conditions she had given us.

The amount of mathematics that went into designing aircraft used to amaze me, before all that wonder was knocked out of me by assignments, homework, repetition. I hold onto it when I can. I don’t want to become jaded and bored by the one thing in my life I had chosen for myself.

We can’t fly, but I want to help make the things that get us as close as possible.

My parents are terrified of flying to the point they will drive for hours, switch trains a dozen times and battle seasickness on money-sucking boat trips just to avoid it. I don’t have their patience or their fear. I used to fly with Aunt Jo as a child because I was too wriggly to deal with the extra hours and days of travel. She was the only one not shocked when I announced I wanted to be an aerospace engineer.

My parents don’t visit me at college. My aunt and I fly down every few months to make up for it.

I always got the sense my mother wanted to cry whenever she saw me. She always came prepared for my visits with the names of boys my age and met and chatted up on my behalf. She’d been married and pregnant with my brother Alec at my age. Since he came out, she had turned to me as her only hope for grandchildren.

Alec had yet to bring a boy home, but he liked to tell me about them. His latest oozed money and loved to take him to the opera, to the theatre, to the ballet.

“He wants me to invite the family next time,” Alec said, sneaking some liquor into my punch for me since I was still just shy of twenty-one.

“Have you asked our parents?” I took a sip and tried not to wince; he was a real proponent of the go big or go home approach when it came to alcohol.

Alec laughed so loudly all the distant relatives at this reunion looked at him. “No way. Mom still cries when I hint at the gay and Dad’s… well, Dad. But I thought you might like to come. It’s a ballet. You used to love the ballet.”

I never stopped. Just got busy.

“And the lead is your age,” Alec continued. “If you’d stuck with it, it could’ve been you.” He nudged me. “What do you think?”

“Sounds great.” I did miss the ballet. I’d loved going to class as a kid, but eventually found my calling elsewhere. I’d never been very good anyway. There had been a girl there, always at the front, who shone like a beacon every time she moved. The teacher fawned over her and paid little mind to the rest of us. I used to resent that girl as much as I’d admired her. As young as me with all the grace and coordination I could never hope to have. I wondered where she was now. Maybe she was the prima ballerina somewhere. Maybe I’d seen her perform without knowing it was her. We used to share lunches. I wondered if she still hated tomatoes.

Mom intercepted me when I got up to grab more punch, boring me with stories and pictures of boys while Alec laughed in the background without lifting a finger to help. Sometimes I wondered what would happen if Mom knew both her children were gay.

© 2016

Author's Note

This is a snippet of a larger piece I probably won't post in its entirety, in case I look to publish it in a literary mag. The history of aviation thing at the start will be better tied into the story as it progresses further.

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Added on March 15, 2016
Last Updated on March 15, 2016
Tags: gay, lesbian, college age, engineer, ballet, homophobia, new adult, young adult


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