When I was five, I knew I had a remarkable power. I could fly. Sometimes I’d sit on top of the stairs leading down to the basement, cross my legs (right over left), and float down without touching a single step.
The key was always to have complete faith in my ability; even the tiniest bit of doubt would keep me from flying. But I know I could do it. Flying was effortless.
Other flights took place during my dreams. I would take a few running steps, jump into the air and dive toward the ground, as if I had a diving board and a deep pool before me. A few inches before impact, I’d start skimming along the grass, arms outstretched (“Like Peter Pan,” I’d say, “not like Superman”), then once I had sufficient momentum I’d vault into the sky, skimming the treetops, swooping and doing aerial tricks, playing like an otter in no less fluid a medium.
Kids on the ground would see me and be delighted, and I was able to teach a few of them how to fly, too. Most couldn’t do it, because they couldn’t summon up enough blind faith.
I would wake from these dreams with my heart pounding and my cheeks cold and flushed, even when the dreadful heat and humidity of summer would choke our AC-less home.
I told my friends of my ability. One or two thought they remembered seeing me fly in their dreams. The rest never seemed to think the idea was outlandish, though childhood does engender a certain blanket acceptance of strange ideas.
When I was six I went to the top of the stairs, sat and crossed my legs (right over left), and was suddenly filled with doubt. Could all those previous stairway flights have been dreams too? No, it happened too many times, it was too real. But willing oneself to believe, and believing wholeheartedly, are two different things, and it was no great surprise when I tumbled down the stairs and hurt myself pretty badly.
When my mother came to help me, my first words were, “I forgot how to believe.”
I never flew again.