The phone rang early this morning and I ran upstairs to answer it. Phones ringing in the morning or late at night are disturbing……. I don’t have phones in every room and haven’t bothered to learn how to use my iPhone yet. So I have to run upstairs and then am breathless for a few seconds and sound like my own disturbed speechless stalker…
My old cell phone was just fine but now it’s lying on my cluttered desk dead and useless. I have all sorts of gadgets all over the house to remove, recycle, restore. Old cell phones and chargers, old remotes, old TVs old DVD’s. One set of batteries I think has already disintegrated in the remotes… I may blow myself up when trying to open them again…they don’t make user manuals anymore for phones and you have to go online to figure out how to use them, or some of us just know….. not me..
No one answered the telephone and I kept saying “Hello…hello… hello…” I could feel someone on the other end….. I dreamt about an old friend last night. A weird, disconcerting, disturbing dream about vague comings and goings, strange conversations and awkward moments, all involving me and all interesting to me, but if I told someone the dream they would fall asleep after five seconds…. maybe it was my old friend the one whose friendship I snapped off like the end of a crisp young asparagus… and threw the stalk in the compost pile… she was mean one day too many and I couldn’t take it anymore…. maybe it was the IRS maybe that old man I see in the park who lets his dogs run wild and do their business everywhere they want .. I called him a jerk to his face…. maybe that psycho I dated years ago who lived in a filthy house and used dishwashing liquid for his bubble baths…. he was so very good-looking and knew it, smart and talented .. I thought I could overlook his filthy house…. He told me only poor people like me despised his filth. All his rich friends never noticed it. I guess they were too smart too clever too hip, too busy listening to Lou Reed or Nico whispering in the darkness…. I learned to like Lou Reed and Nico too.. but I liked them less after knowing the man in the dirty house.
When I ran upstairs to answer the phone and heard the voice that was not there I went to open the blinds and saw two robins on top of the arborvitae just sitting there… in all their beaky fat orange robin glory… their beaks pointing south, they sat like statues and I stood there like a statue too… March is when the robins usually show up, but now you sometimes see them in February even in the dead of winter… where do they go where do they sleep, eat… in my arborvitae!
They stood on top of the shrub as though it was a slate floor. But it was a feathery arborvitae thick and dense now after seventeen years…. reminded me of Jesus parting the waters… he could stand on anything…. The birds were perfectly still but one every now and then turned its head like Jeff Bridges in “Starman”. Actually Jeff Bridges was copying birds in that movie, but these birds looked more like Jeff Bridges than birds.. quizzical, wondering, pondering and then one would turn its head completely around and stare at me… really stare… then they started dipping their heads down and pecking at something and I realized they were eating the arborvitae. Who knew they ate the piney feathery prickly arborvitae… the very tips, they must be tender and green, taste like bird asparagus or onions or chives.. It was breezy out and the breeze ruffled their feathers … just a little at first and then the orange and grey and black feathers all over their bodies were moving… Their chests were heaving in and out and one bird’s heart seemed to be beating so hard and rapidly I thought it was about to explode …..
I couldn’t stop staring at the birds and was amazed that all these years they ate these shrubs which have been growing taller and wider, actually slowly obliterating my view outside, darkening the house inside more and more. I knew they hid in them especially deep in the winter, the cold freezing days of January and February… remember them? Sometimes I came home at night in the winter and the shrubs would be singing..literally the whole shrub throbbing with sound….. full of dozens of birds singing like silver bells to welcome me home.
Sometimes peering inside the bushes from my living room windows I would see dozens of birds. Robins, finches, sparrows, wrens, cardinals, all sitting there in the dark or sleeping maybe thinking…
A third robin popped out of the arborvitae and it looked so strange just its head popping out of the shrub like Howdy Doody….the three robins just sat there peering out at the sky from their living hotel… and me staring there transfixed as though I had never seen a bird..
Now I know they eat these shrubs. It’s food, sustenance and keeps them warm and dry and safe probably from predators like those hawks I see sometimes…. I think of all the big houses going up here and the gardens getting smaller and smaller, all the shrubs and trees disappearing too. All the shelters and food for these birds. All the green will be gone one day and the birds will be gone too.
I have the house to clean, bills to pay, tax receipts to gather, and ponder over, my life to try to bring back from disarray, but I stare and stare at the robins as though they are three wise men…. I notice the frame of the window needs painting …it’s chipping, and there are tiny mold spores forming… I thought I just washed all the windows last month and they were fine… like my bones/veins and the blood running through it all … but it’s really tainted, tired and old….
The birds stare and stare at the sky and open their beaks as though to speak to sing… they cock their heads and I know they are listening to something someone outside of this shrub this house this town… in a few seconds two of them fly abruptly away to the roof of the school across the street and start playing in the gutters. I’ve noticed birds love the gutters.
I won’t clean today won’t look at bills won’t do laundry won’t go grocery shopping won’t write, won’t try to practice the piano won’t try to learn how to use the stupid iPhone or what to do about the old TV the old chargers and all the dozens of electrical crappy junk things waiting to be disposed of.
I will pack a suitcase I will put it in a corner and I will wait for the phone or maybe the doorbell to ring and three big fat robins will be waiting there and I will finally understand what is in their eyes their little beaky heads and throbbing breasts, and I will understand once and for all when they say “Come on we’re ready.. time to fly away.”