At 5:30 a.m. the old man stretched his thick stubby arms as a deep, heavy yawn escaped his mouth, one that ended in a sigh equally as deep and heavy. After a few minutes of staring up at the cracked ceiling, he swung his feet around the edge with much difficulty before planting them onto the dull hardwood floor with a soft thud. The room was filled with familiar silence, no one there to tell him he was awake too early in the day or that the tag was showing out of his nightshirt. Brushing his teeth, he looked in the mirror, getting lost in his own reflection. A white foam ring surrounded his mouth, forming a fluffy beard that couldn't have made him look any older than he already did. His big, round nose took up most of his face, giving his grimacing expression a softer, more comical look. The years of having to carry himself through life without the relief of a partner had made his neckline sink a bit so that his shoulders rounded up and over it, continuing an arch down to his small feet. As he stared into his own eyes, his soulless expression turned into one of empathy, seeing the pain that he and his reflected self both shared.
It was nice to know that someone understood.
His pudgy fingers struggled as he tried to button up his trousers and linen shirt. If he had a wife, she might have done this for him, her frail, delicate fingers being able to handle small things like that. This small act of love might have even been enough to keep him happy for the rest of the day instead of the exasperated frustration he felt after finally having pushed all the buttons through.
Every day, the man walked to the park across from his apartment and sat on the bench that faced the surrounding city. As he lit his pipe, the heat of it provided a chilling warmth that flowed from his throat to the rest of his body. After taking a few puffs, he took out a bag of bird seed that he had brought with him, scattering it across the pavement. Not a few moments later, a dark cloud of pigeons came spiraling down, pecking at the ground and looking up expectantly at the man, asking for more.
They were ugly things, these pigeons. Their red eyes, orange feet, and the random patches of purple and green around their necks made them quite unsettling. However, this alone was not enough for the old man to be repulsed or even just slightly annoyed by their presence and instead, he enjoyed and cherished the company they provided. He smiled to himself as they gathered around, some even brave enough to join him on the bench. There is no doubt that the odd sight turned the heads of many passersby, but to the man, it was as normal as old friends coming together to enjoy a day in the park. When the seed ran low, the pigeons started to bop their heads impatiently. The man hid his hands in his jacket, pretending that they were cold in an effort to hide the fact that he was out of food. After a couple more minutes of putzing around, the leader pigeon squawked, signaling their return to the sky, and the man was alone once more. When the pipe could provide no more warmth, he bent down, picking up the feathers that had fallen off of the birds, and made his way back home.
When he opened the door, he was greeted with the same silence he was bid goodbye with when he left. He shifted from left to right, trying to wiggle off his jacket and stretched to hang it and his hat on the rack that was just a little out of reach. With the feathers still in his hand, the man made his way over to his desk and pulled out a large box that stood underneath it, revealing a pair of wings made of the same kind of feathers he had collected this morning. With unstable hands, he slowly pulled out the stiff drawer, taking out a needle attached to a spool of red thread and started to sew on the feathers he had collected that morning. It was a long process, the needle being so small and his vision being what it was at eighty-seven years old. Back and forth, back and forth the thread went, pulling the man into a state of calm and peaceful meditation. After he was finished, the chair which he was sitting in creaked back as he examined the contraption and decided that it was finally done.
The roof of the apartment building gave him an excellent view of the park where he spent the morning. The young sky was now a brilliant shade of blue, the infinity and seamlessness of it all taking a hold of his breath as his heart raced a bit faster. In the distance, he saw the birds appear and disappear into the clouds, a newfound excitement welling up in his chest, threatening to burst at any second. He strapped on a leather aviator cap and put on his wings. The light autumn wind started to pick up, lifting the air as if to say, "Yes! Now is your chance!"
The old man made his way to the edge of the roof. He was only a step away from a new life. A better life. Taking a shaky step up, the man took a deep breath. He spread his wings, letting them pick up the swirling wind, and screeched.