Four and Twenty
January 6, 2011 in Reflections
When she goes down to the parking lot to smoke a cigarette, a huge black bumblebee comes to hover over her lidless coffee cup, then veers straight at her face and she steps back fast out of its way. It’s flying in frantic circles, and its wingspan seems larger than normal. It lacks that pudgy baby look of the usual big black bumblebee, so much so that she begins to think maybe it isn’t a bee at all, but an impossibly tiny hummingbird, or maybe an even more impossibly tiny blackbird.
This makes her recall the four thousand blackbirds that fell from the sky just a couple of days ago, and how they seem to fit so perfectly into the poem from her childhood—maybe they’ve had it wrong all this time… not baked in a pie, but falling from the sky? And why must it be a matter of right or wrong? Why not both? Well, maybe because… well, doesn’t it sometimes seem like there is only one story and everything that happens now might be called a retelling?
She brings the coffee to her mouth and takes a swallow, thinking about one summer day at the old movie theater when she was ten. The theater was on a hill that looked over her small town, and the cars coming up the road in the distance were at such an angle that they seemed at a certain curve to lift themselves into the air. Not seemed to; in fact they lifted themselves into the air. They were cars, flying, each one in its turn at the launch point, and she held her breath. For maybe half a minute this was possible and she was in awe, and then the trick of geometry revealed itself.
You texted her today that you miss her, that in four weeks you have lost twenty pounds. This tiny tiny blackbird is drunk or diseased, beats itself into the window, air-stumbles over to the fence, never touches down on grass or pavement, is frantic for something that has nothing to do with a landing point. When it flies around a corner and out of sight she realizes that she has stopped breathing, and conscious of this now, she decides to see how long she can go. She doesn’t make it very far. Just until the elevator stops at the third floor and she slides open its heavy doors, and comes into her office, sits down at her desk, puts her coffee, cold now, into the trash and finishes writing down everything she knows and doesn’t know regarding impossible things that can fly.