How Bridget Bailey McQuinn finally lost contact with Earth despite all her best efforts.
Children dream of flying. They imagine how wonderful it would be to soar from wall to ceiling, or even burst through the windows and tickle the stars. In their dreams flying is euphoric. In real life it has drawbacks.
Bridget Bailey McQuinn had always been shy of gravity. When she was an infant nestled in her mother’s arms, she’d occasionally sigh happily and rise up into the air. Her mother had to grab her by the toe and bring her back down to the safety of her embrace. Later Bridget Bailey McQuinn started leaving sticky handprints near the ceiling fan. Whenever she left the house her mother kept her on a harness, afraid to watch her daughter float off in the middle of a walk.
It turned out that bliss was what was propelling Bridget Bailey McQuinn away from the earth. A lick from a friendly dog, a gift from the neighbor, or a bite of ice cream were all dangerous happenstances with the potential to send her flying out of reach. This discovery altered her life forever.
Her favorite movies were banned from the house and the books in her room were limited to those described as boring or sad. Bridget Bailey McQuinn was no longer allowed to play with her best friend, as the two of them had a tendency to erupt in peals of giggles that sent her floating up the stairwell. The problem was treated like an allergy, only, instead of avoiding mold or nuts, Bridget Bailey McQuinn needed to stay far from joy.
The wisdom of this practice was only reinforced in high school when Bridget Bailey McQuinn fell in love with the class president and soared one county over after a relatively chaste kiss. Bridget Bailey McQuinn realized then that the only partners she could afford were the ones who gave her heart no reason to flutter.
Bridget Bailey McQuinn also made certain to avoid all interesting hobbies or glimmers of passion, instead limiting her studies to mundane subjects guaranteed to keep her emotions safely bedded down. In university there was a moment of danger when the opportunity to study abroad presented itself. The letter alone sent Bridget Bailey McQuinn all the way to the cafeteria roof, before she was forced to acknowledge she dare not risk the delights of winding foreign streets.
Her lovers were uninterested and uninspiring and, if she’d been challenged to recount their names, she would have stumbled at the task. Occasionally a visitor to her bed would demonstrate an unexpected spark of fervor and she’d immediately show them the door. Then she’d retreat to take a lukewarm bath and listen to the work of half-rate composers, reminding herself of life’s dull certainties.
All signs pointed to Bridget Bailey McQuinn’s future continuing at the same pace. There was no reason to believe it wouldn’t. After all, she’d even missed her own graduation ceremony, fearing a gust of pride might carry her away. Bridget Bailey McQuinn had also sabotaged any interesting career opportunities, instead settling for the sort of job guaranteed to deaden her soul.
She was determined to carry on in the same manner. Bridget Bailey McQuinn kept her eyes open for the sort of mate who passes time by complaining. She considered adopting a cranky parrot that would keep her up at night. If happiness still threatened her peace, she was certain she could find an incompetent therapist to help keep it at bay. Bridget Bailey McQuinn also suspected children might add to her quiet misery, but she couldn’t be sure, and thus remained undecided on whether to have them.
One morning she woke and, despite the uncomfortable sheets on her bed and the cold breeze drifting through the open window, Bridget Bailey McQuinn felt good. She was filled with quiet anticipation for the day ahead, though there was no reason for her to feel that way.
“It’s coming,” she thought, without rightly knowing what “it” was.
In her small kitchen she began preparing her daily breakfast of dry toast and a red delicious apple. But the apple was so mushy, she couldn’t bring herself to eat it. “Croissant,” her brain whispered.
Bridget Bailey McQuinn had never eaten a croissant, as their light, buttery smell promised all kinds of shuddery delights. Croissants were on the “no” list. But, for some reason, her mind would not dismiss the idea. Where was her iron-clad discipline, her reliable sense of self control? Bridget Bailey McQuinn considered climbing beneath the sheets and starting the day over again. But, instead of retreating to the safety of her bed, she slipped her feet into a pair of too-small loafers, put on a scratchy wool blazer, and left her apartment.
The sky was blue and the clouds were so far away that, under normal circumstances, they would have given Bridget Bailey McQuinn an anxious feeling in the pit of her gut. On that day, however, she kept her eyes to the street, noting the flurry of sights, sounds and smells. One man carried a bouquet of yellow flowers in his arms. A small child sang at the top of her lungs.
Bridget Bailey McQuinn came upon a bakery and the tips of her fingers grew light as she peered through the window. Waiting on the other side of the glass was a stack of croissants three feet high. She stared and wondered for a moment. But, much as Bridget Bailey McQuinn hungered for a bite of the flakey treats, a lifetime of care cannot be demolished so quickly. She passed the bakery without going inside. The growling of her stomach would keep her anchored to the sidewalk.
Ducking down a dark alleyway, she walked briskly, hoping to keep herself far removed from happy faces. Bridget Bailey McQuinn knew that a deadly inclination, once dormant, had begun to emerge from within her and she’d have to be more vigilant if she wanted to avoid the thing she’d been avoiding her whole life. No more glances in bakery windows. She could not afford them.
“Hello there, little lady,” said a voice from the shadows.
Bridget Bailey McQuinn’s hand went immediately to her purse. A mugging would dampen her spirits, but she couldn’t afford it at the moment.
“Hasn’t anyone told you not to go walking through dark alleyways alone? It isn’t safe.”
A man stepped out from the shadows dressed in a long, tattered coat. His face hadn’t seen a razor in years and his left hand was tucked in his pocket, made to look as if he was holding a gun.
“Hand over that bag,” he said.
One never knows how they’ll react in such circumstances and Bridget Bailey McQuinn was no exception. She knew the wise course would be to hand over her bag and run for help.
However, that is not what Bridget Bailey McQuinn did. Instead, almost without permission, her hand closed into a fist and drew back. With all her strength, Bridget Bailey McQuinn hit the stranger in the face, once, twice and even three times. She pummeled him with both hands until he dropped to the ground, at which point she began kicking him with her too-small loafers.
The man groaned and curled into a ball, trying to shield his body from the blows. But Bridget Bailey McQuinn kept beating him until a whisper-thin thread within her body broke and she rose, roaring in anger and triumph.
It didn’t matter when her feet left the ground. The sky was an old friend, one who had always been waiting. From far down below, the grimy stranger wiped the blood from his face and watched as Bridget Bailey McQuinn’s silhouette grew smaller and smaller against the blue of the heavens.
“Say hello to the sun for me,” he said.