The memory of wings



Alex found him lying in the dumpster on Sunday morning, as she took out the long-overdue recycling. There, in the alley behind her apartment building: naked and white as marble, as perfect as a mannequin, but warm and pulsing with fire. She had felt the heat of his presence brush her cheek as she passed — a natural, intense warmth, not unlike sunlight, but noticeably out of place on an otherwise chill autumn day. There was an unexplained pull at her heart, and before she knew what she was doing, she found herself digging through discarded boxes and overstuffed garbage bags, and there he was, unconscious, beautiful. In that instant, all other thought left her mind, and she knew he was the most perfect thing she had ever seen. All she could think was: Angel.

It may have been the two very large, white wings which sprouted from his back.

She reached in, touching his arm, and found the actual flesh cold to the touch. Too cold. The heat remained, inexplicably emanating from somewhere just outside his body. He was breathing, she could see it; but shallowly, awkwardly, as if the action was somehow alien to the body. She pulled at his hand, not knowing what to expect, and he shifted easily, his body strangely insubstantial. Pulling him towards herself, she eventually had him cradled in her arms; what must have been a comical sight, given that his body — wings not included — dwarfed her own slight frame. As her arm snaked underneath his shoulder blades where feathery wing met skin, she felt their airy touch, as weightless as the rest of him: not cold like his skin, nor warm like the air around him, but something else, something undefined.

It was in noting the feeling of his skin on hers, touching at so many points, that she suddenly became intensely aware of his nakedness, and she laid him on the floor of the alleyway. Cheeks burning (and much more besides), she removed her sweatshirt — the only thing she could think of — and awkwardly wrapped it around his midsection. Briefly, she felt ashamed that she had seemingly spent an eternity staring at this man’s beauty in full, too entranced to notice the impropriety of it all. And while true that he was divinely beautiful, the potential literalness of that phrase was something else entirely. Involuntarily, she made the sign of the cross and gingerly picked him back up. In this way she carried him through the entrance of her apartment building, past the secure door and up the stairs to her fourth floor walkup, the recycling forgotten and left behind on the alley pavement. No one would notice; there would be no notes posted asking for courtesy. This was not a class neighborhood. Not like the one she in which she had lived with Anthony, once upon a time, with the underground parking and the doorman — and thank goodness for that. There would have been no explaining this situation.

She laid the mysterious man on her bed, sweeping aside her worn but comfortable blankets. Alex did a double-take as she realized that though she’d laid him on his back, his wings had somehow collapsed to the point of being almost invisible. In fact, the mysterious man seemed quite comfortable in the position in which he’d been placed. At the same time, the warmth which had surrounded him so strongly outside had definitely started to fade. Laying a hand on his forehead, she noted the same strange coolness of his flesh through the diminishing aura of heat. She didn’t know if he was ill in any kind of human sense, but something told her that his immediate needs were the safety of her apartment, and a blanket. Certainly not a call to emergency services. What could they do? Who would believe this?

She grabbed a fresh set of linens from the closet, and placed them at the foot of her bed. Suddenly conscious of the unaccustomed male presence in the room, she gathered the discarded clothing and underthings from the past couple days, currently draped over the footboard or strewn on the floor, and dropped them in the closet hamper. Here in her bedroom, at least while single, she had always allowed herself a little slack in housekeeping duties — but this was company, humanity or conscious alertness aside. She surveyed the landscape: acceptable, at least at first glance. On further thought, however, she opened the top drawer of her nightstand, removing her long neglected rosary beads. They had been placed there, perversely, more out of symbolic penitence for the other contents of that drawer than for any other reason. She dumped the rest into a trash bag, which she stuffed between the spare blankets in the linen closet. The beads she wrapped around her wrist as she eased the bedroom door closed, leaving the stranger inside.

Just in case.

Somehow I seem to have started a NaNoWriMo novel in 2006 (unimaginatively titled Dumpster Angel) but have absolutely no memory of doing so. Given what you’ve just read, maybe that’s not surprising. November’s approaching and I’m feeling that familiar twinge. Let this be an antidote!

  • Vanlal

    I would like to hear Angel's PoV. Did he fall from Grace? How did he come to be in that dumpster?

  • I am seriously considering NaNoWriMo this year.

  • You seem to have a lot to say right now, so it may be the perfect time! Have you done it before?

  • I tried it once in earnest when I lived in LA and once again but didn't get very far sometime a number of years ago, but I've never made it through more than two weeks, I think.

  • Judging from this entry, I'm totally going to guess 2002. But let me know if you're going to do it! I just may jump in too.

  • Lori

    Why embarrassing? It is interesting. The only thing I could find to pick about is "alley floor" and that is because it is an uncommon use.

    So, do you have an outline?

  • An outline? No. I don't really remember writing it, and I definitely don't remember what I had planned (other than what I wrote).

  • sjon

    That's a great mood setting chapter opening.

  • lori

    It does make me want to know more, so you have a good start. :)

  • skywind8

    My first thoughts on reading this were that she found Eros.... aka Cupid, presumably in his young-adult form. Which would be a fun contrast with her apparent religious history.

    Kind of a tantalizing start, anyway.

  • Over two failed attempts (and a few dreadful short stories) I came to the conclusion that the world is a much better place if I never produce another word of fiction.

  • Not at all to say the same is true for you! I guess I more meant to say there is something to be said in giving up, too.

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