Sandy’s seasonal workers had moved on, and though he didn’t really need help in the autumn and winter months, he let me pot-wash and collect glasses on the busier nights of the week. Pot-washer by night, glider by day, or at least on those days that the school decreed it safe to take to the air. The gliding burned off the excess of human adrenaline that – I now saw – had precipitated my mental crisis; strangely it also left me physically tired in a way that flying under power of my own wings had rarely done.
Over the winter months I built back Chan’s trust. I could see it returning in small increments (I had been with her long enough now to be able to begin to perceive these little human signs); in the momentary relief that showed before she composed her face each time I returned from gliding, and in the way she would half-smile as I described a typically ordinary evening at Sandy’s. Her eyes clouded only at the mention of Badezon, which I had begun to talk about again. I wanted to normalise the notion of what I was, and talk freely about my origins as I had in the period after she found me on the beach. So, talking about the hang gliding, I would say, ‘I’m Badezon; we need flight to feel alive.’ And then wait hopefully for the kind of questions she used to ask, about life lived in the air, life lived on my planet. Now and again, usually late at night, she would humour me.
I understood that she would have preferred me not to hang glide. But she had also quickly understood that it was for me what ceramics were for her. Before long I had flown from all of Cornwall’s recognised launch sites – Sennen, Perranporth, Chapel Porth, St. Agnes Head, High Cliff, Vault Bay, Carbis Bay, Carne, Carn Brea, Rosewall Hill, again from Godrevy, and from one or two unofficial places. I never felt in the slightest danger. I knew I could fly, whether with real or artificial wings; bird-alien that I was, I turned and dived in a way that few of the other professional pilots would dare to try. Soon the school’s manager started to talk about me gliding competitively, even though he knew it meant that he himself would drop a place in any competition we both entered. I wasn’t sure what to do. Like any Badezon, I wanted to show off my prowess in the air. But obviously it would draw attention to me, too much attention. Chan immediately said no. Now that I had begun to talk about my planet again, I could tell that she feared the stress of competition – of exposure – would force another crisis, another moment of dangerous madness; another hang gliding fatality. She needed me to carry on existing and she did not have – could not have – my conviction that in the air I was safe from harm. I agreed not to put myself forward, but the urge was strong, and I knew that eventually I would give in to it, and risk the consequences.
But that winter, alien-human relations were at their best. When I came home from the bar or from the air, and Chan from her potter’s wheel and kiln, we would both ache with virtuous exhaustion. After preparing and eating a simple meal, we would sit before the flickering open fire and listen to music – Earth songs about the sea and the moon, or Spain, or hearts entwined with human complications. When the songs finished we would allow the wind to slip in and take its place, and listen to the music of the onshore breeze rising off the sea, ascending the hill, deviating over the roofs of the houses that clung to it, until it gusted down our chimney, scattering the flames in all directions, and left behind a sound like the fading shimmer of a cymbal. And then we ourselves would rise on an indoor thermal and without any seeming effort find ourselves in what I began to think of as not Chan’s but our bed.
That was the night I remembered making love with another of my species, in the air above the semi-translucent sloping fields of quartz, as Badezon’s two dying suns set them aflame. In our sleepy, stream of consciousness bliss, I immediately relayed this flashback to Chan, who to my surprise roared with laughter.
‘Well, that brings a whole new meaning to the Mile High Club,’ she said. Then, laughing hysterically, ‘Don’t even think of trying that in a hang glider.’