People always ask: How did you meet? “You’re such an interesting couple; it must be quite a story.” Evangeline and I share a look. Not really, we think. We met in the cafeteria. I was ravenous with roast beef; Eva was bored with her salad. I made a joke and she didn’t laugh. We didn’t fall in love at first sight—too many surface flaws to be seen: I bear this eyepatch and hairy arms; she has a scarred chin and a clumsy gait. She says gravity makes her awkward… Gravity and the wings.
We fell in love on the roof. Her third or fourth day (hard for me to remember when I was just coming off my cycle), she asked if anyone would go with her. One of the nurses had left the stairway door ajar. She was dying for height and a clear view of the sky. The little garden we have to walk in is surrounded by high walls and skyscrapers. You can’t see but a small chunk of blue or cloudy grey. Good for werewolves when the full moon comes calling, but bad for an angel trying to catch a glimpse of her home.
I followed. I was the only one. My roommate dashed for the ground floor as Eva and I went up. We found the spot where the doctors and nurses congregate on smoke breaks—in the shade of an overhang, littered with butts. This is where I wanted to stay. I have a bad eye and poor depth-perception (from a little scrap with a bobcat years ago), but no wolf likes to look like a coward in front of any cat. She danced to the ledge, and I followed.
Eva stretched out her arms, threw back her head, ruffled her feathers, and threatened to show me she could fly. I put my arm around her waist in case she was serious. (Eva says she is always serious.) She asked me if I believed in God. “Only if life is God’s ridiculously long set-up for a joke,” I said. She didn’t laugh, but it wasn’t a good joke. I stared at the fall; she stared at contrails and sky. “I miss His voice,” Eva told me. “I’m such a disappointment.”
When I tightened my grip around her, I felt something like déjà vu. Had we met before? Did she wear the same perfume as my high school sweetheart? She smelled salty-clean and a little of the places I wanted to be, like the southern coast. A notion snagged and scraped through my head: she’s from my future. Not that you can know such things, but I knew then.
We both kept our jaws locked in group, in ceramics, in our short outings to the tiny garden. When you cannot be yourself, you keep yourself sealed; Eva and I agreed. The roof, the bright open sky, the buildings standing like protective giants caused a cathartic reaction, though. She loves the sun; I love the sun. She has a father: “Your father, too.” But my father liked shoving me into dark, into water, into walls. “He shoved me, too.” It was always ‘too’ and ‘also’ and ‘as well’ with us.
“I’m such a disappointment,” she repeated.
“Yes,” I said. “You’d have to be to end up here. Why are you here?”
Eva shrugged, her wings shuddering. “Maybe I’m here for you. He says ‘go’ and I go. Why are you here?”
“I’m howling mad, you know.” It’s the same answer I gave to my roommate. He didn’t laugh, either.
Evangeline has an unnerving habit of never smiling. We came down from the roof, and I was beaming, but Eva looked lost. Or rather like a caged bird. She said someone used to keep her in closets. I used to quarantine myself in closets when the full moon came.
I stole a key to the stairway door for her. Eva and I had the roof just after pills and breakfast and before ceramics. We threaded the air between us with cautionary tales, half-memories, lost causes, and leakings. We gazed on the park across the street, wild with children we wished to be. Mostly, Eva and I looked at each other, finding things we thought we lost, remembering things we forgot: Eva can count freckles and read secret words on your iris; I do a bang-up impersonation of Elvis and catch grapes spit from my own mouth. We recited verses of poems learned many years ago, but we couldn’t recall from where.
Feet of separation down to inches, down to centimeters and closing. At night, I dreamed I was a cursed prince on a quest to rescue Eva from her evil, overlord boyfriend. On the roof, tingles and sweaty palms let me hope I was succeeding. I first kissed her in the rain after she said God was weeping, after I said God didn’t deserve a second chance.
Sometimes, when we ran out of others’ words and our own, Eva and I brought the girl who wrote sad songs and lit cigarettes to watch them smoke. She liked pictures of Icelandic volcanic eruptions—liked the billowing ash clouds. Eva and the girl sang about being free. Evangeline has a voice that vibrates my being. The girl scratched her stitches and wrote our stories and said she wished she could be Eva for just one day. One day, she tossed herself head-over-ledge into pavement six stories below. Eva realized, then, that she couldn’t fly; her wings hung useless on her back—an ostrich forever grounded, ostracized from the sky. I held onto her. I felt myself melting into her. But Eva never cries.
Eva never said a word about Hell. Perhaps, we were in Hell. The girl who jumped would wake the next morning in the morgue bemoaning her broken body—so I thought. I punched a wall and cried. I tried not to wonder if there were worse things than dying or anything paramount to Eva. Eva and I never talk about that day. After a year, we forgot the girl’s name.
My doctor took back the stolen key. I didn’t care because Eva never wanted to go to the roof again. Then the full moon came ‘round, and it was her time to hold onto me. I tore the sheets from my bed and bit a hole in her dress. But we weren’t embarrassed. Eva combed her fingers through my hair until I was a man again. Safe. She talked about making a home. “A caged life can still be a life, right?” she asked. A nibble on the neck means ‘yes.’
That was how we met: a castaway found stumbling around Manhattan with sea legs and strap-on wings in search of a way back to Heaven, a pseudo-man who can’t hold down a job or keep a normal girl because he goes wolf three days a month. We learned to accept what we have become, to never stifle communication. Eva and I talked about God, about managing symptoms, about escape. She said she knew how to get the key whenever I was ready.
(this story still needs work; any suggestions are appreciated)
Originally written for "The Writer's Cramp" . Has since been expanded.