Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Bird

Light comes in, bursting through the colored landscape with speckled dots of brightness. Moves in like the unwanted visitors who stalk restful sleep. Soon she will remember where she is. The little white room, the single bed with a tri-colored crocheted quilt over her naked body. The little stars of light break through the story of her dark dream. Images of hillsides and trees and a rusted red car leak from her memory, fading fast, spilling, spilling as the light gets stronger. She cannot fight it, it is day and with day comes a bright reality. Four white walls, a single sized bed, a narrow window that looks out into the long, narrow garden. As the colors of her dream drip back into the unconscious, as she fights the tide of consciousness that rushes in, she finds herself too tired to reach for her pen and notebook just inches from her bed on the wooden nightstand. She cannot will her arm to move. It is all right there, but she lets the dreams slip, just like so many other things that have washed back into the dark unruly waves of her nighttime voyages.

Minutes pass, maybe more. Her eyes are open widely surveying the room. The sky outside is cloudy, a thick blanket of white, the same as most mornings here by the sea. Maybe soon, as all things are temporal, the fog will come in full gusts, will water the plants in her backyard with its fine stingy spray. She pushes the quilt off her body with a shove of impatience, the move, though coming from her own limbs, startles her. The impatience seems foreign, though it is all her own. Suddenly, her skin, all warm from a night of thermal incubation meets the cooler air of the small white walled-room. The meeting of two worlds are like tiny alarm clocks on her skin, a thousand little electric needles to her fleshy whiteness. She tosses her legs off the bed and reaches for the sweatpants and oversized white t-shirt on the carpet, the small pile of clothes she wiggled out of more than eight hours before. The t-shirt is thin and white and soft from bleach and time and washings. The tiny alarm clocks begin to fade as the clothes wrap around the contours of her body, all full of curves and roundness, each one calling out in its own voice for touch.

She stands up and looks at herself in the long mirror nailed to the back of her bedroom door. An image familiar, an image that looks like a vision from a dream. Wild shoulder length hair of dark waves that have taken on a medusa madness in the night. Her brown eyeliner is smudged below her eyes and she looks like she should be on her way to some hole in the wall industrial show in the depths of San Francisco, not waking up in her small white walled room, a ceiling of clouds speaking to her through the window. She is different. A different animal than the one who closed her eyes and fell asleep on a flattened pillow. She searches for what has changed, something beyond the mess of hair and piercing eyes, eyes that saw other worlds during the long dark hours. She looks deeper, but realizes suddenly it is not just her, it has all changed. A new layer of dust added to the bookshelf, the slowly dying geranium outside her window, it was all new and different, as altered as she had become by the dream of a rusty red car that would come for her on the street where she lived.

She walks to her bedroom window. The window is narrow, entry or exit from it barred by a crosshatch of decorative iron bars coated in a whitish oxidation along certain edges. The garden outside is lush. Bright bushes of blue hydrangeas are in full bloom which compete with overgrown weeds competing for the same sun. Along all edges of the wooden fence are bushes of deep red geraniums she planted a few months before and a tiny morning glory in a little plastic container that she hopes will one day cover the yard in its curious creeping vines and purplish blue flowers, though right now, the plant is just a few inches tall. Along the back fence, more than a hundred feet away from her window is a massive black walnut tree whose canopy is so wide it covers much of her yard and much of her neighbor’s too. She stares out into the garden many times a day, her patience sometimes rewarded and surprised by the iridescent green shimmer of hummingbirds as they dart quickly among the azaleas, poking their long beaks into the heart of each flower face. More often though, she watches the tiny song birds, more frequent visitors to the garden. Their little brown bodies and fat breasts make her smile with their constant play.

She’s looking out the window and sees a slight movement along the back fence, just a vibration really against the wooden planks but then two pale hands reach up from the neighbor’s yard and grab onto the fence, within seconds a man easily draws himself over the boundary between the two yards. She is startled and still, her mind actively remembering each lock in the house she secured in the night before she slipped out of her clothes and into her soft bed. She does not make any move, her breathing slows. He looks up into the wide canopy of the black walnut tree, his hands on his hips. He is a white man, thin but not frail, though nowhere close to fit. He’s wearing brown slacks and a short sleeved white button up shirt, his clothes reminding her of a mid-level bureaucrat from the fifties or perhaps a director of a small funeral home in the middle of the country where time and fashion is still decades behind. She has never seen him before, is startled and alarmed at first by his presence, but her fear turns into curiosity when he does not walk towards the house but instead, climbs the black walnut tree along the back fence. He perches on one of the lower branches, squatting slightly. She notices his feet are bare and very white.

Her attention is diverted from the man as a fat songbird flies close to her window, circling in front of a small geranium bush with deep red flowers and then makes a straight line to the man in the tree. The man watches as the bird approaches and he opens up his hands as it flies nearer. The bird lands in his cupped hands and stays for a few moments. Both the man and bird are still, looking at each other until suddenly the bird takes off and flies up, landing on a near vertical branch at the top of the tree.

The man closes his eyes. He stays like that for a while, though she cannot see his slightly creased forehead, she can sense his intense concentration, his stillness, he seems to both expand and contract, yet is still, getting lighter, lifting as though the wind were picking him up in a gentle embrace. Wind full of summer jasmine and the threat of seaweed-scented fog. She watches him through changed eyes, sight altered by dreams and time. She notices his white shirt, the way his chest begins to protrude just a bit more, pushing against the plastic buttons along the front, the same sort of movement she has seen the little brown songbirds doing in the puddles of her concrete patio after a rainstorm. As she watches, his pale white skin turns a pale shade of blue while thin, long blue and brown speckled feathers sprout on his thin arms. His bare feet turn darker, then become black and claw-like. A weak breeze moves through the leaves of the tree, the tiny song bird at the top takes flight. In a moment the man is covered in feathers. He opens his arms wide, ducks below the lowest hanging branch of the black walnut tree and flies away in the direction of the ocean, his blue and brown feathers becoming a dot, then vanishing completely against the white overcast sky.

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