Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Unknown Destinations of Paper Planes

The Unknown Destinations of Paper Planes - Image courtesy of Fiddle Oak

Paper planes are easy to make. The hardest bit is getting them to fly.

The first time I flung one, it soared upwards, hit the ceiling, and nosedived to land on my right foot. 

The first time I managed to fly one well enough was during Maths class in third grade. The plane landed below Suzie’s desk and tickled the nose of a little lizard that had been dozing under the desk in class. Shaken up by the flying piece of paper, the lizard darted across the desk, leaped on to Suzie’s lap, and made a bolt for the wall but not before she let out a shriek that caused our teacher to faint and brought the teachers from all other classrooms rushing into ours. And my paper plane lay innocuously under Suzie’s desk as an incontrovertible proof my guilt. (No one believed my story of the lizard, and Suzie insisted there had never been one, though she did roll her eyes and stick her tongue out at me when she thought no one else was looking.)

Sometimes my planes flew up and got stuck in the branches of trees. 
Sometimes they’d manage to get themselves snared in the jumble of electric wires atop tall poles. 
Often they’d just somersault in place and fall on my head. 

The only person I knew who knew how to make paper planes fly was my brother. And he refused to let me in on the secret. For seven years he derived pleasure in watching my clumsy efforts and laughing at my futile attempts. And when he planned to move to the city (in search of a better life), I worried that with him, his secret too would be gone forever. But when he boarded the bus and turned to wave at us from the window, he looked at me and yelled that they need to be told where to go.

I have since figured there are many ways to guide the planes to their destinations. Sometimes I just whisper to them before setting them on their way. Sometimes I scribble the names of places on them. My neighbour’s rooftop, the haunted oak tree at the edge of the fields, as far as the summer wind will take them, into my lover’s home, as high as the eagle soaring above the mountaintops, on the other side of the horizon.

I try to make bigger planes now. I hope some day they will be large enough for me to ride on them. And I will tell them to take me closer to you.

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