Published in ARTERI Creative Arts magazine, 2009
Confessions of an Urban Canary
“She wasn’t like that. She really wasn’t. It’s that staring door’s fault. One starless night it chirped as usual. She sliced it open with expressionless joy. It felt no pain. Fake birds feel nothing. The boy’s father appeared with an undernourished shadow behind him. His silhouette struggled to run away from him but couldn’t. For a brief moment, I thought his shadow was actually dragging him and not vice versa. Yet, I’m just worth fifteen euros and a gum-plastic cage, don’t listen to me. He (along with his weaker self) hesitantly whispered something in her right ear. She paused for months. I counted an accidental car crash, the arrest of a pickpocket, sixteen French kisses and two half-shot pigeons, by the time she actually moved. The melted candle on the ash-grey stand seemed more human and animated than her. The night it all happened, she knelt on the floor, tearing her feathers apart, pulling her frizzy hair, biting herself like a wounded vulture. Her eyes released translucent drops like acid rain. The last one nearly crashed on my auburn beak. Its acidity almost burnt a feather’s yielding edge.
I sensed it (and don’t you dare think I have no feelings). Something had been irrevocably lost. I knew what that was like. I had experienced loss before, in ways you could never imagine. I had to adjust my needs to a less impressive bird’s eye view, a minuscule sense of space and a rare form of depression (that of urban flying subjects, objects or whatever one would call a bird like me). The flame of the candle refused to let go, just to keep her company. She forcefully extinguished its glow, shutting it up. I wanted to sing but subjects or objects like me perform in the light, not in the tar-black night. I did pity the ashtray. Dozens of cigarettes scalded each corner of its body. At that very moment of cigarette piling and acid rain flooding, the little boy continued playing with his matchbox collection, arranging each box in line, imitating voiceless train sounds and driving that long passenger train for hours, transported, like her. Wooden sticks moved on and off the wagons, strangers started to sneak in and out of his mother’s house like thieves.
That hatched boy chirps too but in a weird way. Every now and then, his desperate mother spreads her torn wings quite extraordinarily to talk to him, creating shapes like forest trees. The enclosed matchsticks move from one side of the box to the other, drifted sailors, lost in the tropical immensities of an inexistent map. Reminds me of the music leaves make, when the wind caresses their textures and makes them kiss each other like fugitives. The fatherless boy shakes them from time to time, imagining their sound, inviting them to listen to one another. Sometimes, I think I can sob like her. Every single feather of my body becomes a steel needle, invading the pores of my head, making me lose my mind like those tiny cars down there. I envy them from time to time, you know (those two, not the cars). The way they look through and not at each other. It’s as if a primitive form of affection comes to the surface and a coloured aura evaporates in the room, entering my cage and making me feel free again and light, extremely light.
I remember hearing jungle-like screams from the steamy bathroom and noticing some unusually shaped wine-red stains on the fitted carpet. It’s that wooden bird’s fault, letting them in and out all the time, causing damage and producing more and more howling sounds. I never sing when one of those new-fangled men comes in. The marks on the carpet change colour. The volcanic bruises on her body too. Yet, the boy is serene, untouched, lighting up his matches and about to set the drooping curtain on fire but never does, never does. He just continues playing with his matchboxes, mentally pushing himself away from the narrow boundaries of this damp room and taking me further away with him. It took me some time to realize that the boy is different. It took me some time to understand that the boy can neither hear nor speak, possibly the victim of his mother’s dilapidated life. Thank God the boy can’t hear. It’s already midnight. The fake bird will chirp again and a hawk-like man will enter, punctual, as always…”