A single ebony feather floats gently next to the brilliant crow that just collided with the window in my office. He is convulsing about, trying to stand, and prolonging the pain before the inevitable happens. The glass door barely budges but I pull furiously on the handle. The doors sighs a distressful moan, its heft grinding the rail it slides upon only opening three quarters of the way to let me out.
It was around two-fifteen the day we met and I was finishing the tenth revision of a contract involving government discounts and warranty guarantees. Hauling myself up out of my chair, I shut my office door and walk over to my balcony to open the sliding door for a bit of fresh air. I struggle with the sticky door until it opens and proceed onto the red brick balcony to enjoy the sun on my face and bask in the aroma of Sweet Peas growing on the ground below.
His call was distant at first, two long utterances waiting for a reply. I scanned the pine trees surrounding my side of the building but no bird was to be found. Then I hear him again, this time to my left, much closer. I peer into the dense needles and see him balancing on a thin bare branch. He gazes at me, waiting for me to respond.
I ask “Do you need something?”
He expanded his wings like a geisha’s fan and rose up elegantly, then swooped down and perched himself on a woody limb in front of me. He speaks again, strong and vibrant this time.
Bending to rest my arms on the balcony rail, I inquire to him “Are you hungry?”
He caws calmly this time, penetrating my skull with beady eyes understanding my loneliness in this uptight place. He continues this game for a few moments but then is startled by the sound of his kin. With great power he shoots through the tree, pine needles scattering in all directions, to join the radiant dark brood. I lose sight of him as he blends into the kite shape form and glides away with his flock.
The next day I was consumed with a power point presentation that was growing pages by the hour. Pie charts and scorecards were merging together and I was struggling to focus on each individual slide and their placement in the overall deck. I drop my head on my desk in defeat when his two long caws pull me out of my funk. I bounce up quickly closing my door to the work world, berate the sliding door until it opens and step outside to greet him. This time he is already on the limb in front of my balcony, bobbing up down like he is on a pogo stick. I beam at him and his incredible beauty.
He croons at me this time, soothing my discouragement and unhappiness. I sway gingerly; close my eyes and dream of wide green field of vibrant tulips eclipsed by a crystal blue sky. I’m running madly through the flowers, my arms tearing off their buds while the crow dances in circles overhead. Once again our time is ended by his flock who call to him to join them in flight. I wave after him already missing his calming song.
The following afternoon my boss interrupts us with red line changes, apologizing for distributing my break. He had his deadlines and I re-arrange my schedule for them, even my time with my new friend. The beautiful creature didn’t seem to mind scratching the railing, marking his territory before he leaves.
Each day after that he always shows up around two-clock and I join him to have a mental break. He now stoically stands on my balcony rail and caws incessantly not letting me get a word in edge wise. I like that he can share his problems with me, even if I don’t understand. I listen, nod when he pauses and grin when I think he is making a joke.
After three days I decided to bring snacks to our meeting; three Wheat Thins for him and a bag of plain M&M’s for me. At first he was frightened by my gesture, flapping around, spinning in circles. Then he snapped up the food in one bite.
“What will you do tomorrow when I am not here?” I ask placing the final Wheat Thin in front of him.
Snatching it, he zoomed off to right towards the grey clouds that were hiding the clear sky behind them. He didn’t fly with his clan this time; he chose to be a loner for our final date that week.
Saturday I tried to convince my husband to come with me to the office to meet my fine feathered friend. “Mike, remember the crow I told you about that visited me at work this week, would you maybe want to meet him this afternoon?”
“What?” he asked bewildered, “Are you nuts? Why would I go see some bird? There are a few in front of the house right now, why don’t you talk to them?”
“It’s not the same, what if he is looking for me today? I don’t want him to think I abandoned him.” I stutter, wringing my hands and wiping them against my thighs.
“It’s a bird, who cares. I’m watching the game, you can go and if you want.” He states and settles into his recliner, remote in hand watching the pre-game warm ups.
“Thanks for making me feel dumb, at least he enjoys my company and listens to me. Enjoy the Angel game, I hope they lose by ten.”
He rises, lightly grabs my wrist and pulls me into an embrace. “Honey, you want to go and talk to a crow, you are my little bird whisperer.” He pecks my mouth while hugging me again.
“Stop it, you are mocking me.” I say struggling to get out of his grasp.
“Ok, I will go with you to meet the bird if we can stop at Buffalo Wild Wings after to finish watching the game”
“The kids have piano at three; we wouldn’t have time to do both.” I say sadly realizing this was a bad idea.
“What about tomorrow?” He says stroking my hair and nibbling on my ear.
“No, we have brunch plans with your parents.” I say leaning my head back further as he ventures down my neck.
“I would prefer to meet the bird.” He sighs just as he reaches my collar bone.
“Okay you two, gross! Can’t you wait until tonight?” my older daughter scowls bouncing down the stairs. “What’s for lunch mom?”
“Go Angels” I whisper in his ear, breaking from his arms to finish the rest of weekend with my family.
When Monday rolls around I am worried my afternoon break companion will stand me up. I have been missing for two days and maybe he found someone else to keep company. The closer it gets to our time, the more I gnaw at my cuticles and pull wispy stray hairs from my head. Today, if he shows, we will be splitting a blueberry muffin I purchased with my lunch in the work cafeteria.
I swivel around in my chair, stopping every rotation to look out at the tree that faces my window. He is just late I tell myself with every turn. Finally on turn fifty two, I see the familiar black wingspan that lands gracefully on the rail. He caws twice wishing me a pleasant hello. I jump up, grab the muffin and join him on the balcony, relieved he is back again.
“How are you my friend? Did you have a good weekend? I hope you like blueberry muffins because that is our treat today.”
I tear the muffin in two, mushing his piece to crumbs and trickle it on to the brick for him to eat.
“I was going to come see you this weekend but got tied up at home.” I tell him. “I hope you didn’t come here looking for me.”
He continues to nibble at the crumbs only briefly looking up at me a couple times.
“I have had the usual crappy day, contracts that make no sense, presentations that are far too long. I try to give my opinion but no one ever listens. If I don’t understand the document why would our clients, right? Anyways, I’m glad you are here.” I say smiling at him, wanting to pat his pinball size head.
The rest of the week we saw each other daily, but I felt he was off a little. His usual exuberance is now sluggish and quiet. He barely sings, releasing a caw or two at most. I cut back on the snacks thinking I was maybe making him sick with people food. Now I only give him one Wheat Thin, but he munches on it until it is gone. He is going through a molt, may be that is making him uncomfortable and irritable.
But today everything changed. I kneel down to the poor thing, hushing him, hoping he will relax and accept death peacefully. His beak is cracked forming a triangle gap that his tongue quivers in and out of. It’s not clear if one his lean legs are broken since his left wing cannot upright him. His pen point eyes reflect suffering and fear of what’s to come.
His final breath consists of a sorrowful caw knowing he will never soar with his flock again. I lean on my legs and rock softly back and forth, sobbing at the sight of the now lifeless bird. I glance into my office and see co-workers gawking at me, some laughing; they do not understand my grief.
Glowering, I stand throwing my hands up and yell “Get out!”
I sit back down and hum quietly at him, my way of giving him a funereal; saying good bye to my friend who seemed interested in my work plight, liked to share a bite and would soothe me with his songs; the crow that will never be brilliant again.