Her chest was heavy as she walked toward the field. Her breathing had become labored, but not from exertion. She was experiencing the depth of her choice, and it was physically tugging on her, making it more and more difficult to breathe. She carried the cage with both hands in front of her, because it was too much for just one arm. She had come a long way, and with a heavy load. Her strength was waning, but she was almost to the field. Only a little farther, she encouraged herself. One foot in front of the other.
This wasn't just any field. This was the field she had dreamed about since her youth, the one she visited with her grandfather when he released the birds. She was very young when it happened, so her memories were blurred, like watercolor mixing on a canvas. She remembered the cage built into the back of the truck, the rumble of the tires over the uneven earth, the squawking of the wild things in the back, anxious for emancipation. The truck suddenly halted, and her grandfather got out. She followed him to the back of the truck. This part was the clearest in her memory. Her grandfather unbolted the metal latch on the gate and held his hand over the door, gazing intensely at the feathered creatures, who were now so loud she couldn't hear anything else. Then, as if he were mastering a magnificent ceremony, he threw the gate wide open and flung his hands into the air. The birds rushed out of the cage like water rushing out of a hydrant; the pressure of their wings and their palpable excitement pushed her to the ground. She rolled over and laid on her back, watching them fly around, experiencing the freedom that had been stolen from them for so long.
This is why she had returned to the field today. She, too, had a cage full of something with a longing for freedom. She suddenly realized how incredibly heavy the cage had become, wondering how such a thing could have happened, as it had felt much lighter at the start of her journey. She took her first steps into the field, taken back by how much longer the grass was than on her first visit here. She smelled the air and knew that today was the perfect day for this release. It was going to rain later, and would wash away the dirt and damage that had accumulated on her prisoner during the course of their trek.
Once she felt that she had gone a fair enough distance into the tall grass, she set the cage down. This release alone gave her a great relief and she laughed at how wonderful it felt. She wiped her brow, tied her hair back, and knelt over the cage. "This is it," she whispered tenderly. Leaning over this beautiful creature she had kept captive for long, she felt suddenly mournful for its obvious pain and also for the loss she knew she would feel after releasing it. She quickly brushed a tear from her face and set her eyes on the latch. Unlocking it, she held her hand over the door, just as her grandfather had done, and gazed at the thing inside. She looked for a long time; she was unsure when she would see it again. She took a deep breath, one that felt like it reverberated down to her toes, and then she removed her hand from the door to the cage.
In a burst of flight and frenzy, the captive burst from the cage, just as she remembered the birds doing so very long ago. She flung herself to the ground and rolled over to watch the first flight of this beautiful slave she had kept all to herself for so long. As she watched it circle above her, she knew that she had done the right thing. The movements were so lovely it nearly took her breath away. She steadied her breathing and watched, full of utter awe. The freed captive pushed farther into the distance, closer and closer to the edge of the sky. Her lips curled into a small smile, and she closed her eyes, full of the most tremendous peace she had ever known.
Her heart was finally free.