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The Broke-Wing Bird
By Nicole Goodwin
“I told myself I wouldn’t cry anymore…”
It had been almost three months since your pre-teen daughter was taken. You lay in bed, nursing the remnants of a parched throat and a broken heart. Your daughter has now been in foster care for exactly…hmmm three months? You forget the number of days it’s exactly been, but you are aware of how the ticking of the clock reports such things. How it reports that in 15 out of 22 months the reunification proceeding will transform into the ugliest of things. Adoption proceedings. And, as you lay in bed, you wonder if you can even write about such things as they are going on.
Instead of writing you go out into the night air as you often do when you are lonesome. The apartment seems larger than it used to be when you and she were living there. Your bedroom/living room/workroom/everything else room, and her bedroom. Not to mention the kitchen, the bathroom and that was it. It used to seem so cramped and small and now…
“The house is too large and too empty.”
And, as if the city can hear you like a prayer from God, it rains a little. This winter has been an unusual one in the city; one that sends out all the rats into the Harlem streets at night. And, by rats, you no longer mean the rodents. Those come too, but the men you meet along the streets. The way they catcall you. The way they size you up and devour you with their eyes; the way they lick their lips when they speak to you as if you’re a rare steak. Oh, how you’ve come to hate men.
And yet, there was that one. Ah yes…him. He who was your friend in another life. How you almost became lovers — did you get cold feet? Did you even love him then, do you still love him now? He haunts you, his face how ultra-masculine it grew over the years. Each second another hair upon his face and chest. And his eyes…those deep dark brown eyes that seemed to behold all the mystery in the world…
Every time you think of him you seem to lose your mind. It has gotten so hard to tell reality from fiction. Are you really outside? In the night air, walking past the darkened project buildings and closed-down stores? But, how you love walking in the rain, the city streets all chaotic, relentless, and unforgiving seem to hush to a crawl. Or is it all just on mute in your head again.
“Did I really love him? Can I get my daughter back? Is this all really happening?”
Is this really happening…that seems to be a question you’ve always asked. But, the real question “Am I really here?” And lately, that question hasn’t been asked. Why? Why haven’t you asked that of yourself. Because without those two people you have been in pain. And in pain you realized you were really alive, not well but alive.
“Am I going insane or just waking up?”
That is the question you ask God. It seems like HE and you speak again since you have been writing once more. But, the days are still lonely, and it is as if God would rather you just to himself. Did you squander the gifts HE gave you?
Once you had a dream within a dream. You dreamt you made love to God as the spirit of the Earth — Gaia. When you two united you both came together and created the universe. It took a billion years this union, this exquisite union. You both belonging only to each other. The dream within that dream was that you were the first woman, Lilith. God had decided to build his children upon Gaia’s face, her breasts to nourish his children. So he made a man — Adam, and his mate.
As Lilith, you realized something. That God and Adam shared a bond. A bond that neither shared with you. This made you envious. That was the first sin. That envy made you the first sinner. That envy drove you to call upon the serpent. You made him fetch the fruit. He did not trick you. IN TRUTH YOU WANTED THE KNOWLEDGE. THE POWER. You wanted to be like God so you could bond with HIM and Adam. They could never leave you out again.
But, Kings will be kings. And rules, rules. And, you broke those rules. Twice. GOD never banished you. You left. You left full of hate. But, you didn’t leave alone. You and your nakedness, he and his fire. He who was the first of God’s creations. The one of wings who knew him best. He who had been jealous of God’s wife came with you. Dream or not, you dare not speak his name…
Oh, the times you had. The debauchery, the rawness. The passion, revelry and folly. Nothing to claim in the world except yourselves. Not even belonging to each other. It was fine, until you saw him again. Your husband, in the distance. Lonesome, as if to be bleeding out from sadness. And, as much as you hated him, every day you saw him something arose inside of you. Something outside of the knowledge you stole. Another emotion. It was called pity.
So you left the party. Abandoned it. Forever, because out of that pity grew love. Not out of obligation, but virtue. And you wanted it this time. You wanted to share yourself with him and God again. Explaining this both God and Adam were unsure.
“How can WE trust you Lilith? You destroyed US.”
Thinking all was lost you were ready to leave…Adam grabbed your hand and you turn to him your eyes full of water and salt. What was happening to your eyes? And, on that day, the first tears were shed.
“FATHER, I will take this woman, but she should be made anew.”
And so, God decided two things: HE would strip you of your old name and give you one anew. Second, HE would craft in you a sliver of bone that comes from Adam, if you so leave him he would die. He placed Adam’s life upon you head and shoulders. And so, you became Eve woman, the first to bear the fruit of the world. Both a gift and a curse. A mixed blessing to be said.
But, your second husband would not forgive you leaving, and he would find a way to make you pay — and pay you and your kind has ever since.
The memory of the dream brought you back to the reality that you would have to appear in Criminal Court in two days. Reason on the books is that you had no idea getting into your old alum mater. The real reason was you offer a kid sex for cash. The real reason was all those dreams made you into someone you didn’t even know. And prostitution, an option brought on by the stress of no financial ends, well hell if foster care found out…
“Would that be so bad though?”
Would it…I mean she’s in a good home now. Maybe better than yours that was proven. But, she’s unhappy and you’re unhappy.
A yellow cab speeds by and almost splashes your jeans. You jump out of the way in time. Lost in thoughts you always forget to come back or rather remember just in time to avoid being hit by a car. Will the case get thrown out? Even still how could you even show your face on that campus again?
“Damn it! Fuck that pussy-fearin’ motherfucker!” Stop. Rage does you no good anymore. It only makes more trouble. Breathe.
As you breathe, you stumble across a pigeon without its toes. If you live in the city long enough this isn’t unusual — it just another thing on the peripheral, like white noise. Most might notice it, but no one speaks on it. But, for you, the sight is always astounding, because the pigeon keeps going. You never hear its cry of pain — of which you are CERTAIN it is almost always in. BUT, it keeps moving knowing that if it doesn’t it will die. It doesn’t have time for self-loathing, and for it self-pity is useless.
Every time you see those birds, you always think back to that one time. The day you and your daughter went back to your alum mater for a visit, and it was a cold day in autumn, two maybe three years ago. Everyone had gathered around a soccer field for a strange reason. Noisy and full of curiosity you and your daughter inquire.
“There’s a seagull with a broken wing. We’re trying to get it to take it to the vet.”
Try as they could though the bird would not budge. Was it fear? Indignation? Who knows. But, rather than allow the humans to help it, the bird just took off into the sky. Flying with a broken wing. Not sure how your daughter felt about that sight, you asked her. Because you were — are the type of parent, person that wants to know how she thinks. You wanted her to tell you in her own words.
“I thought it was cool,” she said, her light skin shining as she smiled. She didn’t say why. She didn’t need to.