- Good Enough. For Now.
I didn’t hear the sudden thud. I was busy doing things. But I did hear my lover’s cry, “Lauren, come. Quick.” I ran to the bedroom. There she was, still in bed, her beautiful bald head covered in a black sleep cap, her reading glasses perched halfway down her nose. “Quick, lock the cat door, a bird just slammed into the window.” I hesitated for a moment because I had thought it was she who needed help, that she was throwing up or falling down, the chemo causing horrible symptom #32. But she was fine. It was the look in the beautiful blue eyes of my girl cat, an excited, crazed look that she gets when prey is near, that launched me into action.
I ran to the cat door and slid it shut and looked out onto the deck. A small brown sparrow lay unmoving in a soft heap. I could feel the sorrow rising in me. I am not a birder, but I love birds. I also love my cats, but I call them, “The Assassins.” And I go to great lengths to keep the birds on my property safe from them. But the bedroom window, I would have to do something about the window, a decal of a hawk or something as a warning.
I held the bird gently and thought, Well, that’s that, another bird done gone. But then it surprised me and opened its eye for just a moment. I wrapped the weightless bundle in a dish towel, placed it carefully in a shoe box with holes punched in for air, closed the lid, and put it on my desk. This was when I realized I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do, whether or not what I had done was right.
So I looked it up on Google. It was the exactness that surprised me, not that I would find some sort of answer. “How to care for a bird that has hit a window.” Thirteen steps succinctly laid out, beginning with Step 1, “Is the bird a passerine (toes facing forward, one back, the ‘usual’ kind of bird) or non-passerine (birds of prey or marine birds)” and ending with, if the bird [End Page 133] lives, Step 13, “Congratulations.” The only thing I hadn’t known was that one should wait for up to two hours for a stunned bird to recover before going for help. It took the full two hours, but the sparrow finally fluttered its wings and I helped it fly off.
That evening my love said to me, “That bird—that’s what it feels like for me. I was fine, then I crashed into a window.”
It happens to all of us one time or another and it is always a shock and you never know how you will respond until you get there. The accident that breaks. The illness that consumes. The fire that rages. You are reading, a bird slams into a window. The impact is loud, shocking. After you realize what’s happened, the pull toward helplessness can be intense, but the cat is crouched low, creeping forward, eyes intent.
I wanted so much to pet that beautiful, stunned bird. To stroke the softness of its feathers. To comfort, console. But it was a wild bird, not a house pet. When my lover is feeling blue and says to me, “I realize I might die,” or “I don’t think I have what it takes to make it through this,” there is a split second when I feel so unnerved I might throw up. I am that bird that just smacked into a window. I am lying limp and barely breathing and a blue-eyed cat’s tail is twitching. And it’s not because I might lose my lover—well, it’s sort of about that, but it’s more about what it takes for me to walk out onto the deck in the first place to deal with what I think is a dead bird and my complicity (the window), and lift the creature into my hands and see its...