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Angel's Wings MAG
Trendy clothes are not designed to accommodate wings.I am more painfully aware of this than any teen fashion columnist willever know. How humiliating, I shudder, remembering that my Calvin Kleinsweatshirt is slit down the back in two places to allow full-size wingsto protrude from my shoulder blades. In a feeble attempt to hide thealterations to the expensive shirt, Mom sewed a row of small buttonsdown each cut so that it buttons up the back. That's a trick forSeventeen.
Nothing can hide the wings, though. I gave up trying,even though I sometimes feel I've lost some great cosmic battle by doingso. Sometimes I wear suit jackets with my wings folded down tightlyunderneath, but they stick out from underneath, inviting curious staresfrom strangers who wonder why a girl is wearing fake wings.Conspic-uousness wards off questions and lame jokes about Halloweencostumes and Christmas pageants. In full view, my wings send a silentmessage that says, "Yeah, they're real," or better yet,"Bring it on."
Since my growth spurt, they stretch fromjust behind my head, where they come up in two muscled arches, all theway to my ankles where they meet in two gracefully crossed points. Atleast, they became graceful (my mom's word) after I got used to them.When I was 12, I grew three inches in one year, plus three feet inwingspan. The curious specter of a sixth grader tripping over her ownwings at least helped distract people from my braces and acne. I neverfeared comments of "metal mouth" or "pizza face" -those just weren't the first things people noticed about me.
Highschool has been a special challenge. In a place where fitting in andhaving friends means everything, I am far too "other" to hopeof disappearing into the crowd.
"High school treats everyonelike play-dough to be squished through a giant shape-forming tube. Someof us just don't fit easily," Mom once told me with thatsympathetic frown of hers.
"Yeah, I could never get througha small space," I smiled and shrugged in a great, quivering expanseof hybrid feathers. Mom turned to take some dirty plates to the sink.Her own shorter wings moved softly as she sighed. For five generations,the women of my family have been wearing biological wings; we're thefirst of our kind. The scientists have been slowly getting better attheir genetic manipulation. I am supposed to be their finestaccomplishment yet. In acknowledgment of the researchers' miracle, myparents named me, appropriately, Angel. Alone at night, I sometimesresent my great-great-grandmother's choice, and my parents' choice ofnames. What a burden for a kid. Angel. I think they drove me to smoke;it's not really my fault. Sometimes I am not the angel my parentsexpect.
With my hands in my pockets, I try like other highschool students to appear as invisible as possible, but the sight of awinged girl is too much for most students to ignore. They used to gawkin the halls as I passed and crane their necks during class to catch aglimpse. Freshmen still do that for the first week or so.
Theawkward girl with wings was easy pickings for older kids when I was afreshman. Imagine gym class during your "awkward phase" plus a12-foot wingspan. I looked ridiculous, and my classmates never let meforget. They taunted and teased and whispered, splashed my locker withsticky pop and applesauce a few times, put their feet and back packs inmy path, and sometimes even threw things when no one waswatching.
The torture stopped the day I learned to fly. I couldonly go short distances and not very fast or high, but one shorthop-like glide over a foot thrust in my way is all it really takes toshut up a hotshot jock. Nothing intimidates ill-intentioned classmatesso much as merely flying out of their reach.
But being differentisolates me, too. Wings are more intimidating than pimples or muscles orperfect hair. They are better than good grades or rich parents. No oneidentifies with a person with wings like they do with poets, studentcouncil members, or soccer players. No one, except mymom.
"I wish I were normal," I whisper
to herone night after she turns off the light.
"Don't ever saythat, Angel," she sighs. "Not ever."
"I amalone, very alone. Their parents didn't give themwings."
"We all give our children wings, Angel. Yoursare just more obvious. They are real."
"Am I more realthan they are?"
"Yes, I suppose you are. That's your gift."
As Mom closes the door softly behindher, I wonder if she thought I meant classmates or wings.