Is A Bird Without Wings Still A Bird?

We were birds.
I knew from the minute I met you that I’d finally found another free spirit.
We were determined not to make the same mistakes as our parents.
Why confine ourselves to a conventional life, dragging our feet through each day just so that we would have enough money to get by?
“What is money anyway?” We challenged as we googled cheap flights and working visas.
“Why live in one city with two feet on the ground?” We questioned as we kissed our mothers goodbye and promised to call home.
“There’s a whole world out there” we agreed, “let’s go and see it.”

We were birds.
As we arrived at the airport you took my hand in yours and I knew we were in this together.
“Close your eyes” you whispered as we stood there in our cheap bedroom in that hostel in London.
You spun me around in circles and told me when to stop.
“Touch the map and that’s where we’ll go next” you promised.
It was a map of Europe and we couldn’t believe our good fortune when my finger brushed against Greece.
We forgot to call our parents and tell them how we were.

We were birds.
“People think we’re crazy” you admitted. “But they’re the crazy ones. We are too wild and too free to be trapped inside four walls.”
You had that sparkle in your eye and I’ve never wanted you as badly as I did at that moment.
We watched the sunset in Santorini and spent the night between the sheets.
Summer turned to winter and you were the only thing I needed to keep warm every night.
We trekked in Nepal, danced in front of the Eiffel tower and slept under the stars in Kenya.
I reminded you to call your mum and you rolled your eyes at me.

We were birds.
But in Italy I could feel my wings giving up on me.
“It’s been two years” I said through my mouthful of pizza, trying to hide my homesickness.
Why should I be homesick when we had each other?
“Don’t talk with your mouthful” you snapped and I knew you could see right through me.
We didn’t make love the whole three weeks we spent in Italy.
“I want to go to university someday” I confessed as we stood in front of the pyramids of Egypt.
I called my mum every night that week.

You were a bird.
“Aren’t you sick of this?” I yelled at you from the cable car in Canada.
Living out of backpacks, sleeping in eight person dorms, working odd jobs.
It was fun when we were teenagers but I missed my old, familiar pillow.
The fights became more frequent until finally, you made one last attempt to help me fly again.
“Don’t let life extinguish your fire,” you pleaded and I remembered the promise we’d made on that mountain in Vietnam; that we would never give in to the 9-5 job and the mortgage and the two or maybe even three kids.
I couldn’t stop the tears because I realized I wanted those things now, more than I wanted to be here with you.
I was trying to fly but my wings were stiff and stubborn and tired.

You were a bird.
We cried at the airport as we realized that this was the first time one of us would board a plane without the other.
“I’ll always love you” I promised and I meant it, I really did.
You gave me your anklet, the one you bought in India, and told me to remember our adventures together.
You watched me board my flight and for a moment I wanted to turn around and run back into your strong, safe arms but I didn’t.
Had I ever really been free or was I just postponing the inevitable – growing up?
Life had caught up with me and I felt my youthful passion disappearing.
It had been an amazing, life-changing journey and now you were going to be having these adventures alone while I went home to one city to have two feet on the ground.

Is a bird without wings still a bird?
Is an eaten apple, reduced to its core, still an apple?
Is a hot chocolate left out too long, gone cold, still a hot chocolate?
We promised we’d see the whole world together and darling we tried.
47 countries, but what of the other 149?
Is a bird without wings still a bird?

thumbnail image – Thomas Frost Jensen

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