Would you rather fly or be invisible?


I have already experienced invisible and its lonely.

I have had some spectacular flying dreams.

Some are escape dreams, I am running away from bad guys and running turns into a dragging flight until I am airborne. I have to learn how to steer and I plunge wildly up and down and carve the air like a spoon, then a knife. Holding my body straight with my head tipped forward levels me off. Unlike superman, my arms are loose behind me, like a scuba diver.

To steer I have to look, “that way.” My body does the magic, not my mind.

The world is very beautiful from the air. One can look at the movements of people, little specks, cars, little boxes streaming along the freeway or a motorcycle winding up the mountain road. Dark green puffs of trees winding up a canyon or following a river. Wide plains of grass, sometimes brown, sometimes green and splashed with yellow and blue flowers. The ocean lays like a sheet of lead, the horizon ever so slightly bowed. Civilization, a  belt of grey and white crystals growing alongside the bay. A woman, glistening with oil, her skin a deep brown, sunbathing on a deck chair on a yellow brick patio, a tiny white cigarette dangling from her chaise longue. She is almost asleep. Soon the cigarette will fall onto the bricks. Sparks will scatter and then turn black.

But one cannot stop anywhere, or rather in the dream I can’t stop. I can’t land without crashing. And I can never tell anyone what I can do. If I tell, I won’t be able to fly again. The power will abandon me. Permanently grounded even though being able to fly only happens occasionally and feels like falling a great part of the time, I don’t want to lose it. It is my secret power.

One can observe without being detected when flying.  It’s a kind of invisibility but it isn’t lonely in the same way being unseeable would be. If the point of being invisible is to hide from people, you are still tied to the ground. You can’t talk, you have to walk silently, you can only eavesdrop, never contribute. All you can do is spy. Maybe if you wanted to sneak up on animals to see their private moments, invisibility would work, but does invisibility include no scent, no micro giveaways that most interesting animals pick up on. Again, I think invisibility is about not being seen by humans, one’s own species.

I wonder if this question divides between male and female. That men would like invisibility and women prefer to fly? I bet someone made a study and there are statistics out there on the Internet.


Then there is the question of what does it mean to fly in a dream? Is it escape from danger or responsibility? Is it freedom or a false euphoria? How is watching the world from 1000 feet different from being on foot and invisible? I am not talking about the experience of flying I’ve described earlier but I am wondering what it means in the world of dream interpretation. If I were dreaming flight what does it mean? What am I trying to tell myself? That I am an observer, yes. That I have a superpower that I cannot predict nor control. That is so comic book, so cliché, so universal.

It must be something about my creativity, that’s what I think. Creativity. Flying. Not invisible. When you are flying, people, if they look up, can see your miraculous power. You can show off.


I grew up with my father as a navigator. He was always flying. When he came home, he didn’t want to eat in restaurants or sleep in strange rooms. He wanted his home, his bed. Vacations for him were lazy days in the back yard, walking the dogs, teaching them tricks. But, I think, that when he was in the air, he was as whole as he got. He took great pride in getting the plane to arrive on time and with the smallest variant of place possible. Hitting the target. In 1974 he was forced into retirement when the airlines started using three computers to do his job. He was training to fly small planes but he could never pass the physical to get his pilot’s license.

He dropped dead in 1987. Grounded. To a flyer ‘grounded’ is a negative. One is forced to the ground, unable to fly.

The overview, me flying over the landscape of my father’s death, is foggy. There are moments of clarity, like openings in the clouds. Seeing my father lying on the gurney in the hallway of the ER in Novato. How wet he was. How his face seemed melted onto his skull. How white everything was except for his darkly tanned face, his fine, still-black hair pooled at the back of his head. I kissed his forehead – it tasted salty. I felt his hand, the small bones inside felt thin and loose, relaxed. Tom couldn’t touch him. But I don’t remember if my mother was in the room, nor can I remember how we got from the ER to her house. Who drove, which car. I don’t remember if my husband was there when we made the calls to Dad’s clients, to tell them he wasn’t coming to fix their appliances. I remember telling the same story over and over on the phone until the words became meaningless, an uncomposed hum. How predictable their responses were. Telling my dad’s brother, Don. Asking him go in person to tell Isabel, their mother.

And I remember the funeral a few days later. At the cemetery in the Presidio. My mother sneering at the ceremonial folding of the American flag. Resenting my father for abandoning her, yet again. And all of us shattering when Taps cried out, played by an invisible force from behind the black trees.

There is no thread tying it all together. No timeline. I was wounded by his death but not dangerously. I loved him but I needed to protect myself from him and hadn’t allowed my love for him to become integral to my wellbeing since I was in junior high school. He was difficult to be close to because love and sex were so deeply entwined in him that he really couldn’t express love without sex getting mixed in. I knew he loved me but through a wall. He observed me, but he was afraid of me because he couldn’t stop loving me and he knew his love was terrible and destructive.

His arrivals were dreaded because we were all doing things against the male He. My brother and I, our mother, we conspired with each other to be illogical and messy. Be silly. Stay out late, or not even come home until dawn. Sleep with strangers. Take drugs. Get drunk. Irrational stuff.

When he came home it was to a mess so complete that he could only add to it by getting drunk and lashing out and raging against my mother.       His violence towards us always raises the question of our complicity. I know it is not polite to discuss, but my mother really did “ask for it.” She trained us to think of her as a helpless victim but after a certain point I stopped believing it. I watched my parents try to carry on a conversation about something they were both truly interested in and she would inevitably raise an objection that was so totally off topic, aimed directly at some offense that was years in the past, that he was thrown out of balance. It was as if she always threw the first punch, then she would take her damage and use it against him later. She always showed her black eyes as trophies, “See what a bastard he is? This is what he does to me.” She would shove her injuries at him. I am surprised he didn’t kill her to avoid his shame. She only wept in self pity when she had gotten thoroughly drunk and he was away flying.

He was ashamed of hurting us. Once after an altercation where he slapped me, I watched him pacing back and forth in the back yard cursing himself. I went out and asked him what he was doing. He said, “I shouldn’t have done that. I don’t want to do that.” He was so angry with himself he was sweating, almost crying. I felt sorry for him even though my cheek still burned from his slap. Knowing that he hated himself made me love him a little more. I respected that he took responsibility for it. It was a saving contrast to my mother, who never took responsibility for anything.

In the months that followed his death, I knew the world was changed but it was still recognizable, I was no more lost than usual.  I was subdued but had to be reminded by others why I was so quiet. I grieved, but only when I remembered; “Oh, yes. My father died a month ago. He dropped dead after breakfast on April 2nd.” Most of the time, my memory was occupied with other things. I had to go to work. Finish projects. Worry about my mother.

I miss him, but missing him was the normal state of things before he died. I always missed him.

He told me that when he was 4 his father took him to San Mateo airport and for 25 cents my father was given a ride in a barn stormer’s biplane. He decided right then that he was going to make flying his life. That was his flying dream. I like to think this dream he had at 4, got him some joy in his life. His need for invisibility was the curse.

Rage was passed down like a precious heirloom from my grandfather, to my father, to his children. My brother. Me.

It is a dark secret, a superpower that we cannot predict nor control. It is flying without wings. There is no possibility of landing safely. The busted up life crash-lands. Inevitably.