by Quinton Powers
“Imagine if you please, a wire, and on this wire, standing in perfect conformity and precise uniformity, birds. Birds of all shades of black and grey: grey, gray, grae, black—every shade imaginable. Feel the mono-chromacity of the situation, the hopelessness in the tyrant of condensated beasts looming miles above the feathered subjects of the scene. See the breezes blowing around you, picking up the loose drapes of the clothes thrown about your just recently entered body. “Just recently entered?” you ask. Yes, you are also part of this scene, standing, watching, trying to understand the beings lined in front of you. You stand upon a great expanse of pavement, grey, cracked, about as colorful as the sky around you; you stand alone, ready, with head cocked at thirty-five degrees, waiting. Wait. Waiting? Waiting for what? Don’t ponder this too much, we’ll answer it later. Anyway, return to the aforementioned scene: birds, wire, cold, dreary, you standing. As the clouds roll ever so closer, something new catches your eye, what is it? Why, it is just one extra (and equally depressing) detail. One leg. The grey bird, fourth from the left, has only a single leg, yet there it stands, in your vision, as perfectly positioned as the rest. Astonished, gaze fixed on this anomaly, you fail to see a man approach from behind. He passes on your right, lifts his formerly akimbo arms into the sky, sprints toward the wire, opens his mouth, and emits a wondrous sound, a mature and hearty:
reply the birds. A new cloud appears. Of what? Feathers. Grey. A battle for the open sky begins after the sudden entrance of the scraggly man and his now famous and duly-remembered interjection. Wing-ed creatures burst away from order, cawing with utter surprise and contempt. The birds that once sat side-by-side, one-by-one, steady, uninterrupted, now filled the area above the two interlopers, breaking away from their former structures and facing the world ahead of them, ready for the subsequent wire, the next stage of life.
“Exit all. All except for two. Still watching the last remnants of the feathered majesties depart, you turn and gaze upon a familiar sight. The bird, still perched on a single leg, lay in the exact position as before. A mirror of yourself, the bird returns your gaze with the power of a Nietzsche-ian abyss, piercing and averting your fragile eyes and mind. The tension of the situation builds as neither party moves, until, with almost utter surprise and complete apprehension, you take a step forward and spake upon the bird: ‘What are you waiting for? The whole world is open to you, my feathered companion. If you have the ability to travel anywhere you want, why are you here? You, bird, are the model of four million years of evolution, now act like it, get out of here and become something.’ You are greeted with a silence, what did you expect? You are yelling at a bird. As you depart, the one-legged creature offers up the last word as a reply: ‘caw,’ it says with complacent ignorance and a seemingly intelligent tone. If one were to infer the meaning of this seemingly inane sound, as you didn’t, it might have said, ‘Ask yourself the same question, human.’
“Forty years. That’s how long it has been. Four, zero. Walking, with briefcase in hand and a familiar breeze chaffing your uncovered face, you turn and cautiously walk along the pavement, the same lifeless pavement. On your right lies an image of the past, a wire—correction: the wire—still hanging between the newly-bankrupt bakery and the unknown building on the left. Memories of the thoughtful and spontaneous events of your past return in waves; guffaw, caw, “leave”, free. Every day you walk by this monument, and every day you see the depressing image: five birds, nine legs; seven birds, thirteen legs; one lonely grae bird, one lonely graeing leg. Every day…except today. Today you are greeted with a soft thump—an apple landing in the fertile soil below. Only replace the soil with hard cement, and the apple with a creature of now-broken bones and feathers. The clouds above, huge cumulus giants, grant no light on this spectacle as you approach the fluttering mess laying before you, limbs splayed. All three. You count with utter disbelief: two wings, one leg. Yes, before you stands, err, lies the un-leaving bird of ye olden days; no longer with contempt does it caw. After years of decaying, the deceased creature fell from its wire; no longer does it stand as one among its peers. Looking upon its solitary leg, you realize, the bird never left. The wing-ed love of yours had the ability to leave at any moment, yet due to a language barrier of great magnitude, it never knew. As you reach down to grab your briefcase, your eyes once again return to the leg of the bird; then you look down at your own two and remember the speech you gave this same bird forty years prior. Back and forth, you look, and with a sudden gasp, you fall upon your knees in despairing realization: the speech applied to you as well.
Black: A Conclusion -
“Yes, just what are we, humans, but wing-less birds, with the shared and unacknowledged ability to go anywhere with our lives. With this in mind, return to the question you posed in Grey. And instead of having someone like me, your lowly guide, solve it, return to the scene of the wire and once again re-ask yourself that one simple question: just what am I waiting for?”
An excellent essay by a good friend of mine. Enjoy.