Friday, April 18, 2014

Birds Are For The Birds

I like birds. I like to watch them. I don't know a finch from a penguin but I think they're beautiful when they're, you know, out there in the world very far away from me. I don't like them in cages and I don't like them at the zoo with anklets on their bird legs. I do not enjoy wandering around with binoculars trying to find specific birds on a Saturday afternoon but I'm fascinated enough by the cool creatures to decorate my breakfast nook with bird paintings, owl teapots and a tiny robin's egg blue sugar bowl with a yellow bird on top. (We've started calling that room the bird room for some weird reason.) It's my favorite room because it's cute and cozy and conveniently located next to the kitchen where the vodka and popcorn live.

Yesterday I sat on the couch wearing a flowy shirt with birds all over it, a springtime purchase from H&M that I thought was whimsical and kitchy. I was talking to my mother on the phone when I heard a terrible sound coming from the kitchen. It sounded like a mountain lion was wrestling with Gimli from Lord of the Rings. "STOP IT, HOGIE!" I yelled into my mom's ear because of course it was Hogie doing something terrible. It's always Hogie and he's always always doing something terrible.  When the ruckus didn't stop, I went to investigate and found a bird flying around my kitchen desperately flinging itself into every window.

"WHAT DO I DO OHMYGAWD THE POOR LITTLE BIRD HOLY SHIT HOW DID IT GET IN OHMYGAWD" I howled into my mother's eardrum. She suggested opening the front door and shooing it out with a broom or something.

Our front door is not a straight shot from our kitchen. It's a rambling old house full of twists and turns that probably seem like a maze of torture to a bird. We don't even have any trees or sky or anything. I flung open the front door, grabbed a broom and tried to shoo the poor thing out of the kitchen. There is one window in the kitchen with no screen. It fell off during the storms and the landlord hasn't been able to replace it yet. It was open because the other window (the one with an actual screen) doesn't open at all. I'd previously only been able to get the old thing to open a couple of inches so I was fairly sure I wouldn't be able to pry it any further down myself. But even though the bird had clearly gotten in through that tiny crack, it sure as hell wasn't trying to fly out that way. Instead, the poor little thing was flying repeatedly into the window, ignoring my broom. He darted around the kitchen narrowly missing my head while I bawled and begged him to stop hurting himself.

I finally got him into the dining room (one room closer to the open front door!) when he noticed our glass door that leads onto a balcony. I cannot even describe the horrible sound of that tiny creature hurtling into that door as hard as he could. He fell mid-air toward the ground and I watched in horror as my sweet little part spaniel dog did what sweet little part spaniel dogs do and tried to catch him in his mouth.

And this is when I lost my fucking mind.  Any part of me that was staying sorta kinda cool in the moment went bye-bye. "Hogie stop it!" I screeched through my sobs. Hogie started howling, the bird started flying around the room in big looping circles and I frantically scrambled for the key and opened the dining room door so he could escape.

Except he didn't escape, he flew back into the kitchen, away from the howling dog and the crazy sobbing lady with the broom. I ran into the kitchen after him, hoisted myself up on the counter and pushed down the screen-less window with every bit of my strength and by some miracle, got it all the way open. I think it might have been the adrenaline because normally I have trouble opening the refrigerator.

But the bird was disoriented and wouldn't fly out the open window.  He crashed himself into every window in the bird room, crapped on my laptop and then sorta flopped down behind the microwave and stayed there.

I didn't know if the bird was alive or dead. I didn't know who I should call. The cops? In my home town there was a lady called, ahem, the Bird Lady who would take in injured birds and heal them. Surely there was someone I could call in Los Angeles. Instead of calling someone who could actually help, I called Tim at work and tried to explain the situation. It took me a couple of tries before I could calm down enough for him to understand me. He said he would come home, get a towel, pick the bird up and carry him outside. If he flew away, awesome. If he was injured, we'd figure out who to call.

I wanted to tell him he didn't have to come home, that I could totally handle it. I'm a mostly functioning adult woman. Of course I could handle one little bird behind one little microwave. But as I heard my voice say, "Okay," I learned some things about myself. One, I am not a clutch player. Two, I am batshit terrified of birds. Like, phobia level. That bird swooping at my head was scarier than the king of rats riding in on a giant spider to me. I suddenly recalled nightmares I'd had about flocks of birds and bad trips in college where I'd hallucinated birds flying at my face. Three, I cannot handle watching a creature hurt itself like that. It was too much. I felt like I was broken. I felt like it was all my fault. If I'd reacted quicker, the bird would be flying around outside tweeting and stuff instead of cowering in fear behind my microwave.

I decided to leave the little guy there while I waited for Tim. I closed the doors to that room so he would fly through the open window instead of into the rest of the house if he could fly at all. I washed my face. I called my mom back. I googled everything from "bird rescue" to "bird repair LA" and then sobbed a little more. During this time, I checked on the bird twice and both times he remained in hiding, beak slightly peaking out from behind the giant appliance I only use to warm up chai lattes.  The third time I checked, he was gone. I looked between the counter and the fridge, fearing he'd fallen to his death. But, he wasn't anywhere in the kitchen. He must've found the open window and flown away. To be sure the bird wasn't lying injured in the back of the house, I went down and checked but there was no sign of him. I texted "He's gone, go back to work!" right as Tim walked into the house. I'll expect my wife of the year trophy to show up in the mail any day now.

The window is closed all the way now and the landlord is coming to measure for screens this afternoon. I still can't wrap my brain around how the bird fit through the tiny crack in the window but I will never leave a window open without a screen again. Too risky. Too traumatic. Too birdy.

*photo by Sharon Drummond.