You don’t notice the change. Instead, you realize that his back doesn’t hurt anymore. He stands up a bit straighter, and doesn’t groan when he settles into the couch after supper to watch Animal Planet footage of sea turtles migrating across the Indian Ocean to lay eggs on the Sri Lankan shores, every third season after mating at sea. They don’t show footage of turtle sex, but you can imagine it: two slow, ancient creatures in the warm, almost perfectly clear sea, twisting around one another.
Later, you look it up online, and the video is serene: she flaps slowly through the sea while he rides her back, utterly still and happy. They might be flying.
It’s in your mind when you look at him and realize that your lover has grown wings.
He doesn’t seem to notice them. They fold themselves over the back of the couch when he lounges, and when you lie down with your head on his thigh, watching the hatched sea turtles crawling into the sea for the first time, one of the wings stretches over you like a blanket. He rests a hand on your head, and you watch television together. Later, in the bathroom, while he flosses his teeth, they stretch like arms working the kinks out.
You don’t know if they’re real. So you follow him, for a while. He goes to work, walks through the glass-walled offices in search of broken computers, then crawls under the desks to fix them. Every day he does this: puts on his utility belt of military-grade cell phone and small tools and extra cables, and repairs the broken threads of information technology. You have to stand at the right angle to see through the shadowy reflective glass. Step behind pedestrians when he catches you out of the corner of his eye and twists to look.
His wings fold up tight against his back while he’s under the desk. When he stands, there are fragmentary dust whorls dangling from them.
The woman whose desk he has re-linked to the world doesn’t notice his wings. She nods thanks. He leaves her cubicle.
Another woman carrying files snaps her head around to look at him, then shakes herself and walks on.
Your lover has wings. They shiver in the supermarket while you debate meatballs vs chicken fingers as a side-dish for the night’s spaghetti. They brush tomatoes in the produce aisle and sends them tumbling down behind him.
The florist looks at him twice before looking away.
He makes spaghetti sauce from scratch, using fresh tomatoes, only slightly bruised from their fall in the market. The basil plant you’ve been nursing for years opens itself up to him. The kitchen smells of purple spicy leaves.
He cooks, so you clean up. While you’re washing the dishes, you find a single iridescent fragment drifting in the water.
His wings fold when he goes through doors. They spread out when he’s sleeping. He sleeps on his stomach, now, and doesn’t snore. The wings half-cover you. They have the texture of dragonfly wings, but their shape is angelic, like a bird’s. In the early morning, before he wakes up, the translucence strikes you: his wings look like the tissue-paper stained-glass windows you made in elementary school. Only their joints are scaled and opaque.
He doesn’t seem to notice them, but they never go away, and you follow him everywhere.
If he was like your other lovers, you wouldn’t be surprised. The pretty, fey hipsters you went through would have been delighted to grow wings. They’d re-design their clothes to complement the wing tones, and flex their joints in public. They’d engage you in complicated late-night conversations about whether they could fly.
Your lover can see fifty years old from where he’s standing. He does tech support for the cable company, and sometimes he goes out on installation calls, just to keep his hand in. The wings make him only slightly less uncomfortable in the service truck than they do in the car, and they flash in the rear-view mirror, but they flick out of the way when he coils wire around his shoulder. He likes being outside.
His wings flick insects away while he’s re-fitting a neighbourhood junction box.
Before you met him, you didn’t watch the life cycle of sea turtles on Animal Planet, and you ate your pasta sauce out of a jar. Before he met you, years ago, he was a lineman for Hydro. After storms he’d go out and re-establish light and sound for the city. He helped build the eastern trunk transmission line.
It’s a weirdly sexy image for you. You can picture him, younger and skinnier than he is now, climbing the steel towers and looking out over the miles of trees while the wires hummed around him.
He says he was never afraid of falling. And you wonder, sometimes, did he have wings then, too?
Did he always have wings, and you’ve just now noticed?
On Friday night, you leave the curtains half-open. On Saturday morning, you lie on your back under his spread wings and watch the light pour through them.
Annette Lapointe holds a PhD in contemporary literature from the University of Manitoba. She has published two novels: Stolen (2006) and Whitetail Shooting Gallery (2012), both through Anvil Press. She teaches at Grande Prairie Regional College and lives in northern Alberta.