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Lift: A Serial

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Part Three

June 10

Today Dad and I had a bit of an argument. He would call it a discussion. I had finished trimming the evergreen-type hedges and started on the overgrown shrubs out back. There are a couple of plants, forsythia and lilac and something I haven't identified, that are effectively out of control. I figured that Dad has been putting so much effort into cultivating a country-club-quality lawn with flower trim that he hadn't spent the time on the larger plants. I decided to take on the task.

I was well into one side of the forsythia when he came flying around the side of the house. Flying for him — he's not so nimble these days. It turns out that he thinks forsythia looks best as a massive and overgrown globe of a plant. My view is that they're prettiest as big fountains, sprouting up out of the ground but with a distinct shape and some visible stems, with branches extending primarily up but also out. Things got a little heated, with him saying I should have asked before killing his favorite plant and me saying I was trying to save it and the rest of the yard from becoming a jungle. I mean, this plant was big, almost a tree.

Anyway, since I'd already made a big dent — literally — on one side, he agreed that I should continue on course and make it symmetrical. I'm hopeful that when he sees how nicely it comes out, he'll let me work on the other plants. But then, maybe he won't be able to appreciate the improvement I made until the plant blooms again … next March.

I think I figured out who it is who has been watching me. It's the little girl next door. Mom says her name is Rachel and that she's about 10. I'm not sure if I should say something to her or not — I wouldn't want to startle her, but if she's just curious I'd like to let her know it's OK to talk to me. I think I'll let her make the first move.

June 11

Today I really, really needed to go for a run. I felt completely sluggish and stiff, almost dusty. Plus, Dad didn't seem terribly psyched for me to help with his yard. So I dug out some shorts and shoes — way at the bottom of the boxes of clothes I still haven't unpacked — and set out.

I figured I'd take it easy, a slow jog at best to ease my knees and feet back into it. But the big surprise was how hard it was on the wings. They bounced all over. I could get going a little bit if I focused very hard and squeezed the wings flat, and tried to minimize bounce overall, but it was like trying to run while holding your arms outstretched for an extended period. I ended up speed-walking most of the way. That was probably a better start back into exercise for my out-of-shape legs anyway.

But now I need to figure out how to handle this unexpected problem. I can either tie the wings together — which I don't really like the idea of, don't know why, just sounds uncomfortable — or I can start conditioning them so it's not such a strain to keep them out of the way. The latter is probably a good idea in the long run anyway, if I'm going to ever start spending more time out in the real world. I need to feel confident that I have these wings under control.

June 12

I'm thinking the answer may be yoga. I've never managed to stick with a yoga program longer than a month — something about being on the road and staying in cramped hotel rooms, plus 80-hour work weeks. I won't face those hurdles now. I've got all the time in the world. Also, if Madonna can make herself buff doing yoga poses, I can too. And how much less impact can exercise have than standing still in one spot and breathing?

I asked Mom to pick up a book for me from the mall, since I didn't feel like facing a bunch of eyes today. While she was out I tried to recall a few poses from the last class I took, over a year ago. I did the Tree — standing on one leg, wings out for balance — and a few others, but the best pose for me has always been the shoulder stand. Really softens up my ever-cramped shoulders. And now that is simply impossible because the wings come out exactly where I'd balance myself on the floor. That was disappointing. I did come up with a modified Corpse pose, with the wings extended to the sides along the floor, and it was relaxing.

June 13

I've created most of a simplified program now, adapting the basic poses and figuring out what to do with the wings for each. I'll need to develop some poses specifically to push the wings, but for a start I'm just reaching them up or out during other poses. I hesitate to call this yoga because obviously it's not rooted in the real discipline. I'm violating all sorts of rules I would imagine, screwing with various chakras. But what I've got seems to cover all the major muscle groups. I should come up with names for my new poses and the overall discipline; that's the first thing I'd have done in the old days. It's all in the brand, you know.

But anyway, when I went to try it this afternoon I discovered yet another "challenge." I'm too big for the house. For the living room, anyway. I can stretch the wings sideways if I move very slowly and carefully and watch not to hit any lamps or knick-knacks, but I can't go upward, and it's simply too hard. I wasn't focusing on my breathing because I was too worried about bumping things.

So I went outside. Fortunately it was another lovely day. Dad's starting to fret about the drought and the health of the lawn, but the lack of rain is currently working in my favor. I felt just like the older Asian people you see exercising in parks, with light breezes keeping me cool and blowing my clothes. (And I remembered to wear sunscreen this time.)

At the end I felt loose and energized. I bet people get addicted to a "yoga high," but I don't think I've heard of it before.

As I was gathering my gear to go back in the house I saw the girl from next door again, in a tree looking over the hedge. I waved and after a pause she waved back. I figured that was enough of an opening so I called out, "Hi." She said, "Hi." I asked if she does yoga and she said no. So I asked if she'd like to try it with me and she shook her head and climbed down, out of sight. I'm not sure, but I'm afraid I scared her off already.

Part Four

June 14

Today I went outside for morning yoga and I didn't see the little girl. The stretching was good; I could feel aches in my thighs and abs and in the upper part of the wings. The wings are not heavy, but if I hold them out or up for a few minutes they start to ache, just as my arms do. I feel sure yoga is a good way to start conditioning them.

Afterwards I did yard work and that's when I caught a glimpse of movement just on the edge of my line of sight. This wasn't up in the girl's tree though — it seemed to be from a window of the house on the other side. I must remember to ask Mom who lives there.

In the afternoon I went back to the library to ask Anne for another book recommendation. She was at lunch when I arrived, so I wandered around the "New Releases" area and looked at the best-sellers. I settled down in the couches and read the first couple chapters of some thriller — there weren't many people so I didn't feel on display.

Eventually Anne came back and sat to chat. In high school we weren't at all close, but now there seems to be some kind of bond between us. Maybe I'm just relieved to find anyone I have any kind of connection with. I wonder if she feels the same way. Probably not — she's established in this town. Maybe she feels sorry for me, weird lady with wings that I am. Or maybe she's just a friendly person. I just know I enjoyed talking with her about mundane stuff like the weather and what stores are worth checking out on Main Street, and I felt bad when she got up to return to work.

She invited me for lunch some day this week. I might take her up on it.

June 15

The people next door are relatively new arrivals, just here a year or so. Mom doesn't know them well. Saul and Debbie Weinstein. They moved here when Saul retired. Their son lives and works in the city, and so they wanted to be nearer to him. Dad thinks Saul doesn't have the right approach to lawn care, but he hasn't worked up the courage to talk with him about it. (The working up courage part is my own interpretation, based on Dad's comments and facial expressions. I don't remember him being a timid guy when I was growing up, but then, we didn't interact enough for me to remember.)

Knowing this, I guess that the flicker of movement I caught was either Saul or Debbie peeking though the blinds at the spectacle of me zipping around the yard. (Should I call them Mr. and Mrs. Weinstein? Probably, until they invite me to do otherwise. The suburbs are so much more conservative than the cities on things like that.) This makes me think of Gladys across the street from Darren and Samantha Stevens, looking out her front window and into theirs, trying to understand the witchy goings-on.

As funny as the thought is, I should make some effort to demystify myself to them. Actually, I'm not sure whether meeting me would make them feel any better about things: Yes, you have a woman with wings living next door. It's cool, don't worry. It doesn't seem to be contagious. But even if I don't have a good explanation for myself, at least I can make an effort. I resolve to go over the next time I notice them looking.

June 16

Today again, no sign of the little girl or the other neighbors. I'm starting to think I'm just lonely. I've got Mom and Dad, but Mom seems to spend a lot of time away from the house now, at one volunteering group or another. I believe she is making up groups to avoid spending time here. Dad is focused on the yard and on things in the basement, but again, I think he is purposefully taking up new hobbies to keep himself busy and away from me. It's my own fault, certainly. When I first came back they tried to talk and suggested activities for the three of us to do, going in to the city to see a museum or going out to the movies, and I was just not psychologically up to it. Now that I'm coming out of this mental coma and ready to do stuff together, they are too tired of trying to engage me.

Or, maybe they are uncomfortable around me. We never did see eye to eye on things. From the day I left for college I haven't made a lot of effort to spend time with them, stay in sync. They like their small town life and small town friends; I preferred a jet-paced career and big cites. So for years we haven't had much to talk about, outside of Mom updating me on what various aunts and uncles and cousins are doing lately, to which I confess I have not listened closely. I'd be hard put to name a single one of my cousins' children.

And then there's the wing thing. What can they possibly think about the fact that their one and only daughter has sprouted a pair of massive wings from her back? Do they blame themselves? Is it a thing that requires blame?

But reconnecting with them … there's the hitch. I don't know what to say to them any more than they know what to say to me. Even raising the topic of our inability to talk seems out of reach, an outrageous suggestion.

I'll go meet the neighbors, and then I'll come back and report on it to Mom.

June 17

Today I met Debbie Weinstein. Turns out she's from Brooklyn. She was fixing some soup when I went by and offered me a taste, and it tasted just like New York. Everything I've missed about eating in NYC came rushing back to me. We talked about how hard it is to find good lox around here, and how there's not even a chance to get a real bagel. She's such a cute little lady, fits the stereotypical Jewish mom so completely that you wonder if she's maybe putting on an act for your benefit. But I don't think she is — she's just a genuinely nice person. We talked for an hour about what we miss from New York, what we have found here to fill the spaces. She's made a number of forays into the city to visit her son, and so discovered some good things there, like a nice deli. I wish we had a deli here. The city is too far to go for potato salad and a sandwich.

She gave the wings a long look but didn't say anything about them. Assuming my "friend meter" theory holds true, this confirms that she's a potential friend.

Mom was out for dinner, so I ate with Dad. Spaghetti with veggie sauce and chickpeas, an old standby of mine. I mentioned meeting Mrs. Weinstein, but since I hadn't met Mr. Weinstein nor had I discussed their lawn care failings, he wasn't so interested.

June 18

As predicted, Mom was interested to hear about the Weinsteins. I told her about my adventure this morning over breakfast, and immediately she started planning how we would have Mrs. Weinstein over for tea. Tea would not have occurred to me, and yet it seems like the perfect suburban thing to do. I'm surprised they didn't do it sooner. Mom pulled out a bunch of cookbooks and we started choosing types of little sandwiches and cookies to serve. I flashed back to the holiday parties she used to plan, with every kind of food arrayed in buffets all through the dining room and people wandering through the house carrying overfull plates, trying to find a place to sit and eat. She tends to err on the side of excess. It used to drive me crazy because she'd drive herself crazy. I'm trying not to argue with her though so I did my best to help plan our tea menu without critiquing.

In the afternoon I dropped over at the Weinsteins and this time did get to meet the man of the house. Mr. W, or Saul I guess, ("‘Mister' makes me feel old, dear. Call me Saul.") is just as much a stereotype as Mrs. Weinstein is. They could be plopped into any Seinfeld episode without a ripple. I didn't broach the subject of lawn care with him as he seemed consumed with whatever it was he was reading. Mrs. W was delighted at the invitation to tea however, and so we made a date for the day after tomorrow.

It will be interesting to see how these two ladies interact. They both seem to value the tea protocol, so that's a promising sign. But I can't help feeling some unease about it.

Copyright © 2001 Cynthia Closkey