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The Freedom of Being a Bat
I climb onto the trunk of the car and feel the icy coldness of the metal sink into my skin making me shiver. A cool lonely breeze flows over me as I scratch the old car on which I sit. White paint chips under my fingernails making a sound that pierced my ears like nails on a chalkboard. In the west the setting sun casts a murky light on my house. It no longer looks neglected and worn in the mysterious reddish glow that engulfs the surrounding neighborhood also. The house is hidden in shadows that hide flaws and other imperfections that poverty causes.
The sky is a striking pinkish hue at the horizon, but when I look directly up it is a deep midnight blue. I am surprised to see two erratic bats flapping above me. Their wings beat the air in unpredictable patterns as they flutter through the evening sky. They switch direction capriciously, mesmerizing me and making me somehow forget about all of today’s rejections. The bats soar in the open space flapping their wings so rapidly that I can hear the beats from down here on this forlorn old car. The creatures distract me with their splendor and individuality.
One bat rapidly plummets down before hastily turning one of its wings and beating the air for liftoff only a dozen feet from the cold, unforgiving ground. The bat soars upward abruptly taking my already astonished breath away. I watch it with an infatuating absorption that some might call borderline obsession. Completely enthralled I watch their movements how they must flap to stay in the air instead of using the wind to soar.
Some only have to glide; the wind slides under their wings and thrusts them to the heavens. They soar on another’s strengths and talents until they reach the stars, but they can take no real credit for the work
they never did. Bats, they have to work for every single inch they gain. They start from nowhere and have to reach the top all on their own. They don’t rely on help from the wind; they have to flap their wings harder and longer than any other.
The bats turn and fly towards each other. They switch directions seconds before they would have collided leaving them both crippled and unable to stay in the air. One flies under a nearby tree and then swerves through the leaves of a birch, thrilling me. They fly up and down going in diverse courses so completely, free. Free from everything including limitations. They can fly away from here, to anywhere they want.
Bats, instead of being free and going to someplace beautiful, return to their gloomy caves filled with an inescapable blackness that must suffocate them. They live in a cave where the walls are lined with nothing but filth and light dare not enter for fear of being swallowed whole. Freedom is wasted on bats for all they do is return to the black pit where they were born and, most likely, will die in that same place.
I would leave this dejected house and old car and try to forget this neighborhood with its friendless, unforgiving streets. I would leave this place in my dust without a single backwards glance towards this persecuting town. For whatever reason that utterly baffles me, the bats reside. They have wings, no boundaries and yet, they stay.
The door to my weathered, threadbare house opens creakily, distracting me from my tortured thoughts. My little sister steps out into the cold night air with an enchanting smile on her face. She is naïve and has no burden with the way we live. Her innocent childlike composure rouses a batch of jealousy in me. She never had been unfairly treated unlike me; always tormented and teased, unable to escape the label of poor and unclean.
“What are you doing?” she asks staring up wide-eyed at the bats I had grown to love and respect.
“Envying the freedom of bats,” I reply watching them dip and dive carefree and independent. They are awkwardly graceful diving to and fro, plummeting under branches and through the light of a nearby lamp.
“Why do you envy bats? They can’t even talk.” She says idealistically. I glance over at her, she wouldn't understand. She never understands.
“Bats, they can do whatever they want. Even when they are young they can leave, they can fly far, far away and yet, they don’t. They stay.” I tell her not thinking she would comprehend what I’m saying.
“Maybe, they stay because they can. Maybe they stay for a reason, the same reason you stay.” She says looking up at me.
Suddenly, my little sister’s lighthearted words finally open me to a world of understanding. Yes, bats are free. They are free to do what they want, and perhaps, what they want is to dwell. Maybe they want to stay with their family and friends even if they are few and far. Maybe bats stay because this is their home, even if it is tattered and old. And this house could also be my home if I could just open my eyes.