Feather Boy by Toni Marshall

photo of a peacock feather

“Peacock (10)” (image via Flickr user Bernard Spragg)

He has peacock feathers. They stick out just above his butt – blues, greens, purples. They shimmer in the light. I like it most when he dances. The feathers shiver like virgins. I watch him in the anorexic moonlight. Every night. When it rains, snows, when the wind screams, and tonight, when the midnight air is heavy with sweat. When the smell of musk lingers gently, invitingly.

I’m hypnotized by a bird man – a freak. He dances naked, his bare feet slapping against wooden floorboards. My hands grazing higher up my thighs. My apartment is two stories higher than his and I wonder if he knows about me, his peeping tom staring into his aviary.

I sit on my window ledge with only night-time traffic from the street at the end of the alley, briefly coming and going, as company. He twirls and shimmies and I’m glad to be alone. I want him to myself and others would only dilute our experience.

My clothes drop to the floor and I barely notice I have been slowly ripping them away from my skin. I look at my own body. Bland and paler than the low-wattage street lights. I wrap a sheet around me, embarrassed the world may judge my lack of feathers, my lack of shine, and my abundance of averageness.

He’s still dancing. I’ve never been one for dancing, but now I could move my feet forever if they were in rhythm with his. A drunk couple wander down the alley that separates our buildings and they engage in their own dramatic tango. Screaming accusations of perceived infidelities. Of glances of other bodies that lasted too long. They shout and he doesn’t stop dancing whilst I watch them, wondering if they will both make it through the night and, if they do, what shape their regrets will take in the morning.

My face already red with the heat of the season goes a darker shade of rouge. Who am I to wonder about their regret? For two years I have watched from afar, envying and lusting after a freedom I struggle to imagine. A beauty that I do not deserve nor will ever achieve. I want feathers. I want to dance. I want to be near him.

I drop my sheet and it lands with a thump that makes me imagine an exclamation mark. I stand upon my window sill. Perhaps, I do have feathers and I just have to fly. I lean out of the window and the first breeze of the summer hits my breasts, goosebumps ripple over my skin.

Six floors up and all that is below me is concrete. I see flashes of purples, blues, and greens from his window and he sees me, his face perfectly still. His hand beckons me over slowly. Tonight, I’m going to fly. I just have to jump.

So, I brace myself and count aloud – one, two, thr……

Toni Marshall is a girl with two boy’s name which is working out just fine for her. She has been published previously in Flash Fiction Magazine, Five 2 One Magazine, and The Molotov Cocktail. You can find her @toniwriting.