Why fade these children of the spring? born but to smile & fall.
Ah! Thel is like a watry bow. and like a parting cloud. – William Blake, 1789
The Istrian sunlight is enough to break your heart in any season, but in winter it is liable to shatter it completely, as a stone breaks ice upon a barely frozen lake.
Perhaps he’d fallen victim to the fatal light that morning; unable to resist its siren-song allure. Perhaps he’d simply had enough, and left this world for something better, or else oblivion. Perhaps he’d left a note whose contents weren’t for me, which had explained it all to those who’d known and loved him. It’s not for me to know, so all these years, I’ve been left wondering; haunted by the impression of a message whispered into emptiness, which I might hear and understand if only I learned how to listen.
Whether by fate or chance (if there’s a difference between the two), I happened to be walking down the hill that morning. At the bottom of the hill the tower blocks stood, some six or seven storeys high. Each block was painted its own garish colour: mustard yellow, eerie purple, or the colour of dried blood. That was the colour of the block on the corner, at the base of which the Fallen Angel lay, covered over by a dustsheet, the pavement around his body cordoned off.
There weren’t many people gathered round; a handful of solemn neighbours and a solitary policeman. I didn’t stay to see the body taken away, preferring to remember him not as cold flesh and fractured bone but in his shining form: a Fallen Angel.
The nature of the fall (from ignorance to knowledge) once moved on from, we can consider the reason: look for a motive, aim to rationalise the seemingly irrational. Maybe he’d had a hard life. Maybe his girlfriend left him. Maybe he was addicted to alcohol and/or other drugs. But none of those reasons carry weight with me; they don’t accord with my preferred description of the Fallen Angel.
In my imagining, he’d been born with wings and lived his whole life with them, wanting only to soar. He knew, if he flapped hard enough, if he believed, that’s what would happen. But he also knew there’d be a price to pay.
As he grew older, he grew more frustrated: a child can see that he has wings, and easily accepts that no-one else can see them: what do other people know, at any rate? But an adult with wings? Other people thought him mad at worst, at best, deluded. ‘Go ahead:’ they mocked: ‘just try to fly, and see how far it gets you.’
All of his life, he’d been trying to fly: to get the best grades in school, be the best sportsman, find the best job. But life hadn’t turned out that way: as far as anyone around could see, he was a loser.
So earlier that fateful morning, before the fateful fall, he’d woken up and finally said ‘Fuck you, life: I’ll fly in my own way.’
And off the balcony he’d fallen, from a state of graceful nonentity to a state of knowledge too terrible or too beautiful for mere mortals to face.
And finally, I think I can hear the sound that haunted me that day, and haunts me still: it is the whispering of the empty air, as if disturbed by parting angel’s wings.
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