Brooklyn Quallen

The geese took off this morning. 

Heralds of winter, squawking their way across the clear blue sky. Fleeing their homes to the memory of warmth. A matter of survival. Leave or die. It’s nothing personal, though it still feels like abandonment. 

They follow the leader, one by one by one in a perfect V, cutting through the air so high above me that I can’t make out anything but their shapes. Could that be the goose I saw in the park the other day? Or the one that stole my sandwich in the parking lot? Who’s to say? Maybe it is. I like to think it is. 

(It probably isn’t. But it could be, and that’s what matters.) 

They make it look easy, flying. A flap of powerful wings, every so often, and then they drift. They float because they refuse to fall. Gravity means nothing against the willpower of a goose. I spread my arms, a mockery of a wingspan, and I flap once, twice. I want desperately to join them in the sky. I think I would give anything to take my place in that V, to find a home with them where the wind bites and the clouds are close enough to touch. But when I flap my arms a third time, my feet remain stubbornly on the ground. I was not made to fly. 

My bones are heavy and solid. Strong and sturdy, made to hold me up and keep me down. Good for walking and running and even jumping, but victims to gravity all the same. What goes up must come down! Unless you’re a goose with hollow bones and a path to the south carved into them. Though I suppose even geese have to land sometimes. 

They’ll land among a thousand other geese, where the sun shines bright and warm and the ground is soft and full of food. They’ll land at home. I just have to watch them leave first.

Is this love? This hollowing, scraping feeling as I watch them fly somewhere I can’t follow? I feel like a piece of me is being torn out of my chest as I watch them grow smaller and smaller in the yawning expanse of blue nothingness. Is this what it means to love something that leaves you? Or is this envy? Is this what it means to be jealous that they can escape and I can’t? They get to leave for more pleasant lands while I stay here to freeze. I have to survive the winter while they live in endless summer. It’s painfully unfair and my breath catches as I keep my eyes up. 

Farther and farther away they fly. The squawks are mostly gone now, stolen from my ears by gusting wind. I strain to listen to their last words but all I can hear is my own breathing. Any wisdom they might have wished to impart on me before they left is lost to the miles between us. 

Love or envy? Maybe it’s both. 

The geese are silhouetted against the white sun for just a moment. Is that not warm enough for them? Could they not just stay there forever? I stare until I can’t anymore, until my retinas burn. When I blink, they are perfectly preserved, a negative afterimage over the clear blue sky. And when I blink again, they are gone.

About the Author: Brooklyn Quallen is an 18 year-old writer from New Jersey. Caught in the nebulous post-high school, pre-college period of her life, Brooklyn spends her time reading, writing, and fruitlessly trying to teach her dog how to sit. She has pieces forthcoming in Lambda Literary's "Writing Out of the Closet" Anthology and the Binsey Poplar Press Magazine and has been published before in her school literary magazine.