It was all I could call her in the circumstances. Black shiny hair coated her back; the midwife said it was her dark skin,
It often comes; sometimes on the arms, legs, even over the temples as far as the eyebrows. The local babies, boys and girls, often have their heads shaved.
Not Flight. And it wasn't hair, as it turned out, not on her back. Slick strands grew, lumps grew.
Moles, the health visitor said. Not unusual for dark-skinned babies.
I wondered. In general, do the mothers of dark-skinned babies swaddle them tighter as they grow older, keep them close, covered, give up showing the medics the down? Down, not hair. Soft, glossy black feathers grew on tiny wings sharp and taut as Caillebotte's umbrellas. I taught her to fold them down, folded her like origami in clean muslin so nobody would see. No stitches, no wax. The needle and thread that fastened those wings were sharp and tiny as neutrinos, the wax insubstantial as shadows.
Her irises were of such a deep brown that, even in the brightest sunlight, her pupils were indistinguishable. I couldn't tell if she was razor-angry or in love by gazing into her eyes, and her egg-shaped face was inscrutable. She held silence through the whole of her first month; observed, scrutinised, mirroring my observation and scrutiny perfectly. Only the pebbles that were her little hands gave her away. Then, towards mid-September, on her thirty-eighth day, she let rip, cried and threw her fists on my shoulders, my face, my arms, her own stomach, from eleven in the morning until three in the afternoon. She cried so long and so loud I forgot all her peace, felt I had had been in the presence of this screaming ambulance all along. It wore me down.
Every now and then I wonder if what happened was my fault for not alerting the relevant authorities. Would not a normal mother go wailing to the clinic?
My daughter has wings on her back! Help her!
No. Who would believe she had not been the victim of horrific torture? My grandmother, a milliner who could stitch more neatly than a machine into her old age, could not have conceived such a fascinator as those wings, could never have crafted and fastened anything so precisely. This was a truly invisible mend, but I refused to risk the blame from Social Services, and nor would I let any slick-talk surgeon near her with his hatchet-scalpel and his threat of gas.
And how was I to know? And how was I to blame? I do feel some responsibility. At least I think I may be responsible, and I think I should feel culpable. Isn't life like that for everyone? How many people think they feel something- love, guilt, sorrow, joy, - but actually only believe that that is what they feel?
So yes, I think I am supposed to feel guilty and that is as close as I am going to get to feeling it. I am, sorry to say (or, rather, willing to say I'm sorry to say), merciless. In some circumstances.
But then, aren't you all?
Flight doesn't eat. Even if she wanted to eat worms like a bird, she has no beak with which to dig them out of the ground; she hears them though. Head tilted on one side near the surface like a blackbird, she hears their slish slish earth-swimming and she knows what it means. The world is full of codes and the codes add up to her understanding. She can hear conversations' gabble and garbled cacophony through ten streets'-worth of walls without a glass. Her ears are tightly-coiled copper springs. She can hone in and hone in like a machine, a bugging device. She works for nobody. She is nobody's fool, nobody's property, nobody's spy. She works for herself.
Her true origins are uncertain; I was certainly not the first to hatch her. The night before I pushed her into this world I dreamed that I lay sprawled open, burning, and gave birth at top speed to everything in the world present, past and future. Observers were overwhelmed with objects, creatures, buildings, forests, canyons, mountains, rivers, trains, buses, rickshaws, foodstuffs, utterances, books, trees, ships, breasts, eyes, glitter, clouds, constellations and photographers snap snapped, thinking they had found tomorrow's story,
Here she is, the origin of everything, inside out and outside in, upside down and twisted upright.
Then she came. She is something else entirely. I am the unimmaculate conception, but she's the thing. She's going to sort it out with great vengeance, but she's no angel.