Flight Path by Mandy Huggins

Beyond the pier I watch two men as they repaint the end wall of the new apartment block a startling orange. 

    ‘It’s the geese,’  explains a voice behind me. ‘The block has been built in their established flight path. On a dull day, or in the half-light of dusk, the geese think the grey wall is sky, and they fly into it.’

    I know that it’s you without turning round. 

    I have replayed that winter evening a hundred times. A goose had landed on the bridge, stunned after clipping a streetlight. As the skein flew on down the river, it staggered, bewildered, caged in by railings and relentless traffic. It had no runway.

    You walked towards me and our eyes met. Without a word you took off your coat and threw it over the bird. We lifted it swiftly to the top of the railing, held it steady for only a moment, and then stood back. As it took off, its wings and underbelly were up-lit by the street lamps, aglimmer against the darkening sky. We smiled, suddenly a little awkward, and mumbled a few words before walking on. 

    Our flight paths momentarily crossed, our wing tips almost touched, but we did not collide. And since then I have thought of you often; my bird man. I have carried your voice in my head.

    And when I turn I can see you have thought about me too. This time we will collide; even if to crash and burn.

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