Sometimes I think that if there’s an intelligent life force at the helm of the universe, it knows I’m very stupid. It’s the only explanation for how sometimes things ARE SPELLED OUT FOR ME. SLOWLY.
When I was in my early twenties, I dated someone who was slender and intelligent and didn’t care for me a whit. He wasn’t mean, he certainly wasn’t abusive, but whenever he looked at me he had the pleasant and slightly distracted air of someone who, at the wedding, got stuck talking to the bride’s great-aunt from Iowa. I had never dated anyone who didn’t at least find me moderately entertaining before. Therefore, I found him fascinating.
(Oh, early twenties, how little I miss you.)
During the six months we dated I had two hobbies: try to make him like me and find Neosporin. I had to find Neosporin because I was never not
getting injured. This wasn’t something I was cultivating -- I certainly wasn’t cutting myself or seeking out suffering -- but if there was a shard of glass in a five-mile radius I’d find it with my foot. Or I was getting a weird spider bite which went septic. Or I just happened to be right behind someone as they gesticulated wildly with a lit cigarette. One night, as I was lying in bed questioning whether I should have gotten a stitch or two in the most recent wound while also obsessing over whether the boy would like me better as a redhead, a voice in my head spoke up.Quinn,
it said. The universe is going to keep hurting you until you decide you’re better than this. Can we please cut the crap and get over the novelty of being treated badly before you’re in a medically-induced coma?
I broke up with him the next day. The puzzled expression on his face leads me to believe he had forgotten we were dating.
Which leads to me the bird in my backyard. No really, it does. As I noted, we had a bird
in our backyard which was obviously not long for this world. I toyed with taking it to the vet, doing the right thing, except that being touched by a human, even a well-meaning one, put in a container and driven to a vet would have caused it more stress than it was feeling right now. Consort tucked it in the crook of a tree that night; we assumed it would go to sleep and not wake up and that would be that. Next morning, she was hopping along the ground and eating seed pods which dropped from the tree.
We decided it was a she because she was very brown and unremarkable in the female bird way.
She wouldn’t accept the powdered baby-bird food we had left over from Stink-Eye
but appeared to drink a little water from a cup and she ate seeds enthusiastically if awkwardly. She didn’t appear to be miserable but she certainly couldn’t be long for the world with her head bent way over to the side like that. Since she could fly no more than two feet up and a foot across before dropping, it was safe to say she couldn’t leave the yard. We decided as a family to create a little bird sanctuary in the walled-in area of the yard and let the bird live out her life. I monitored the dog when he went out, turned off the sprinklers and freshened the water daily. She hopped around, seemingly unaware her head was practically tucked under her wing.
As you might remember, my dear friend Mary
died in February. Her breast cancer had metastasized to her liver which usually kills the patient in two to three years. Mary made it nearly nine. This week, a dear relative decided to stop unproductive treatment for an illness and decided to enter hospice care. He’d fought like a lion and he’s dying like a warrior.
As I watched my l-shaped avian from the kitchen window, a voice in my head -- the same voice that suggested I dump that jerk so long ago, -- explained to me how that generic small brown bird is the great truth. Life is incredibly brief and fragile, but the life force doesn’t leave graciously. Living things like being alive and will work harder at staying that way than you might imagine. There’s no point in not enjoying every single seed or a road trip with a friend or a sunny afternoon. I know you’re a bit of an Eeyore, Quinn, but for a few seconds every day try not to take being alive for granted.
I woke up this morning and let the dog outside. For the first time in days, I didn’t hear peeping. Daughter, following me out, found the little bird dead under the woodpile. We buried her in the yard and wished her well in the next adventure. I watched the funeral and promised her I wouldn’t forget what she taught me.