When the Roads Turn Soft

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By Lauryn K. Powell

For once, I had no clue how to respond to her. The sweet fall of rain outside her whitewashed hospital room was the only sound between us, speaking for me in my loss of voice.

How are you supposed to reply to a person that has told you that they’ve come back from near certain death?

She took my hands in hers and told me about the light. How she supposedly saw God, how her wings unfurled for a day, how she was able to imagine an entire world where the streets were kind and soft, like cotton. She told me that jumping from the top of a building made her the most down-to-earth she’s ever been.

I didn’t believe her. How could I have? How am I to comprehend that her silk smile wasn’t shattered like her spine upon impact? How could I believe that my faith in the God she saw was?

The doctors told her she was lucky to be alive. When the psychiatrist came to ask her about why she jumped, she smiled. He frowned.

“It was for my wings, you see,” she said, “Under certain conditions, people are forced to evolve, sir.” I could tell that he was going to send her off to the loony bin, but she shook her head and laid her hand upon his.

“God told me that you would come here, sir. He told me that you would tell me that He wasn’t real, that I’m off of my rocker. He told me that you would go home to your husband and adopted son and laugh about me jumping from the top of City Hall to see if I would grow wings because you didn’t believe me,” she said. The good doctor’s eyes widened incrementally, jaw borderline scraping the floor as the pen in his left hand began to tremble, the diagnosis he was writing coming to an abrupt halt. She reached behind her and winced, as if plucking a hair.

Instead, she plucked a feather.

“Take this home, sir. He wants you to know that your father forgives you for the fight that you two had before God took him. He says that you are a good man and knows that you didn’t mean what you meant,” she said. She took his shaking hands in hers and as her lips curved upwards, the apples of her cheeks making her eyes squint with a kind glint.

He rose then, eyes wide and jaw slack, as he held her feather in his hand. He took one last look at her, then down at the white feather, and promptly took his leave. I stared at her incredulously.

“What was that, Evangeline? How did you do that?”

“As I said, Lauryn. Under certain conditions, humans evolve.” She turned around and lifted up her gown, showing me her back.

On her shoulder blades were two long, wide scars; and on her scars, two small, white feathers. The muscles underneath had been transformed, twisted to adjust to her newfound wings. There were small pricks and patches where the feathers once were, the white down left behind once she fell. I began to feel myself tremble and shake; and while I didn’t believe in God, I did believe in her. Before me stood an angel, and she had the scars to prove it.

“I prayed, Lauryn. I prayed that the ground would turn to cotton and that I would be able to sprout wings. He gave me both things.” I wanted to protest, to tell her that she was crazy; but she was a walking miracle for Christ’s sake, and I’d be damned if my faith in her words was as diminished as my faith in God.

“He says that he is sorry,” she said, “That He couldn’t make her wings sprout or turn the ground to cotton in time enough for her to be in the situation I am. He says that her words were soft, and that he couldn’t hear her, and that he couldn’t act in time. He apologizes for the letter you had to write, Lauryn. And she says that she heard you, your poem. She said that she has found a new tree; she said that she is waiting for you when your wings sprout, and that she loves you too.”

I didn’t have to ask who she was talking about.

Photograph “The Long Way Home” by Emily McCormick