A small wild bird on a branch

Dear Mr. Birdie

And you, like a month of star, like a fixed kiss,

like a structure of wing, or the beginning of autumn

–Pablo Neruda

 

Dear Mr. Birdie,

Ah, the absolute beginning: that squawking kerfuffle at 6 am.

I turned to my boyfriend, groggy, “What the f@ck was all that racket?”

“I don’t know,” he said, rolling over and closing his eyes.

My boyfriend always gets out of bed before me, Mr. Birdie, so the first I heard of you, you were dead.

Of course we know it’s not kosher to let our cat out, but we didn’t think the second floor balcony counted. And no one was as surprised–or as distraught–as we were when we found that Chickadee lying in a mass of its own feathers the week before.

This particular morning I was exhausted. And I had the morning off. “I’ll clean it when I get up,” I told my boyfriend as he kissed me goodbye.

But sleep was almost impossible, and, when it came, fitful. Horrid images were broadcast on my closed eyelids: harrowing scenes of desperation and struggle and suffering. It’s like I knew, Mr. Birdie. I  forced myself upright and ventured into the living room, dreading what I’d see. Blood? A severed head? Mounds of loose feathers next to a lone claw? Instead, I found nothing but Tabby rolling in a spot of sunlight on the carpet.

I texted my boyfriend: Are you sure there’s a dead bird in here? Where was it?

He texted back: It’s in the middle of the living room.

Huh.

I looked under Tabby’s food mat, in her favorite cloth bag, in the hall closet, and behind the couch. There were a few delicate feathers by the patio door, but that was it. Then I looked behind the living room bookshelf. Nothing. But there, between the side of the bookshelf and the wall, I found you. You poor little brown bird, standing with your head cocked to the side, and trembling just enough that I knew you were alive. Unsure what to do, I made myself some coffee.

As my coffee brewed, I peeped at you from around a couch cushion, not wanting to frighten you more. You were clearly in shock, and, I assumed, injured enough that you couldn’t fly. I Googled “injured birds,” then places I could take an injured bird near by. I didn’t have a car and the ASPCA was an hour and a half bike ride away. You didn’t look like you were in the mood for a long bike ride that morning, Mr. Birdie.

You still hadn’t moved, so I propped up a box lid in front of the bookshelf to shield you from the cat.  A few minutes later I heard a tiny scratching from the behind the bookshelf, and Tabby perked up. You were no longer a bird statue! I grabbed Tabby and locked her in the bedroom.

Then, for two hours, I watched you. You hopped to the little chair by the window. You hopped on the little chair. You hopped off it and into the corner. Once or twice you tested your wings, but they let you down. I put out a bowl of sugar water for you, but you ignored it. You slept a lot, closing your eyes and tucking your head into your puffed-up feathers. When my boyfriend came home for lunch, I made sure he was quiet, so you could rest.

As the day wore on–and Tabby continued to scratch at the bedroom door–I realized I needed to do something with you. I couldn’t leave you sleeping in the corner after I left the apartment. What if Tabby got out? I snuck up on you, towel in hand. I scooped up your warm body, feeling the outline of your tiny bones, and shoved you in a bag. I brought you into the spare bedroom where it was dim, quiet, and warm. There, you thrived.

I brought you your bowl of sugar water and another bowl with crushed peanuts. The next time I checked on you, you were on the edge of the water bowl. Perhaps you’d taken a bird bath. The time after that, you were in the cardboard box with the towel, and, after that, you were on the windowsill.

I left for work, content that you were recuperating. The last I saw of you, your brown-tan body was puffed up on that window ledge, your eye cocked toward me. Little did I know, it would be the last we’d see of each other.

Once at work, my boyfriend texted me to say that you’d begun flying around the spare bedroom. Oh, my wonderful and healthy Mr.Birdie! I thought it would take weeks–or at least days. My boyfriend asked me if I’d like to be home for your release, but I texted back: No, do it without me. Give Mr.Birdie his freedom.

All I was left with is this video. Maybe some day you’ll fly back and chirp my way.

 

Forever,

Your Beloved 

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