It’s the little things: ticket stubs you find in your wallet, four leaf clovers in the back of your drawer, a crumpled note in the bottom of your purse that says, “I miss you.” It’s not the wound itself, it’s the salt that pours from the most unexpected places at the least convenient times. It’s laughing and flirting with a guy one minute and then twenty minutes later, with smeared lipstick and messy hair, you fall into his arms and cry a little bit.
You sit at your computer and Word asks if you’d, “Like to save changes?” and you break down because no, not fucking really. You don’t want things to change and if they have to, you sure as hell don’t want it to be permanent.
You try to forget. You play music loudly and you hit on guys and you are wearing heels and going out dancing. You smile all day and cry all night. You lie to yourself, but you’ve always done that. Even when you’re honest. Everything reminds you and you don’t know how to get rid of everything. More importantly, you don’t know if you want to. You’re more fragile than you let on. You are more delicate then you tell yourself. Is it weird that you fake strength? You guess not. You’re an actor. It’s better to try to play the role, not to break character. The performance is better that way.
Wild birds, once domesticated, will usually not survive in the wild again. They have become so used to their artificial habitat, assimilating back into their natural environment is nearly impossible for most species. A surprising number of older birds have managed to make it, however. It seems that animals are more able to adapt than zoologists once gave them credit for. Perhaps younger birds are less likely to survive because they become dependent on their handlers more easily. No matter what the circumstances, however, the transition back into the wild is a difficult one to make for any rescued bird. They must re-learn how to obtain their own food, build a shelter, and find a mate. It is for these reasons that it is recommended to not keep a bird in a cage for too long. Every day, the bird comes closer to a detrimental end.
You are standing on the edge, looking down and you get butterflies in your stomach. You feel the wind, powerful and honest. Wind: it’s not deceptive, it doesn’t lie. You give yourself a pep-talk. You take a deep breath. You decide you are ready to jump. You want things to change, to be drastically different from here on out. You have nothing to lose, not anymore. Here goes nothing.
You get a rush of adrenaline. What hadn’t you done this sooner? You are thousands of feet off the ground going 120 mph and your whole body is on fire. Your ears are ringing, your skin is being peeled back from your face, and your heart is pounding in your fingertips. You completely understand why people do this for a living. The uncertainty, the vulnerability is real and it is yours and you drink it in, soak it up. You bask in this sunlight. You are alive and you are free- as free as a bird.
Your parachute finally deploys and you are jerked back for a moment as you start to slow a little. You are gliding, on top of the world, with a huge smile across your face. You’ve gained perspective. The world can look small; you just have to get far enough above it to see it for what it really is. The ground gets closer and closer and you touch down, clumsily. It takes a minute for your feet to remember what it is like to function on grass. Life is slow and awkward like that sometimes, but you are beaming.
You finally did what you’ve always wanted to do: you’ve just completed your first sky dive.
The first thing to do once you’ve found an injured bird is to assess the situation and identify what you are dealing with. If the bird is hopping, looking almost lost or “abandoned”, it could be a fledgling that has fallen out of the nest, but is not injured. It usually takes birds between two and four weeks to acquire basic flight skills, so it might seem like your bird isn’t able to fly because of a broken wing, but perhaps it is just a matter of maturity.
If your bird is injured, proceed with caution. Wild birds that have an injury are more prone to stress and shock than their domestic counterparts. The most stressful situation for any wild bird is to be approached and handled by people. Do not intensify the stress by handling the animal excessively. Quietly check the bird for signs of recovery (sitting or standing upright, eyes open, defensive postures when approached) every two hours or so. Perform any physical exams or medical procedures (such as splinting, radiographing, or suturing) quickly. Be gentle.
You walked into the parlor ten minutes ago more sure of yourself than you are now. You are nervous, but ready. You’ve thought about this for a while now, you remind yourself. The only rash thing about this is deciding to do it spontaneously. Or at all, you correct yourself.
You are flipping through designs in the artist’s binder, looking for one that is close to the cross you saw online and liked. A few pages in, you find the perfect tattoo: a beautiful, simple Celtic cross. You let the receptionist (well, at least that is what you would call her) know you’ve settled on one and you pay her in cash. The needle-guy comes out from the back room, drying his hands with a towel.
“You next?” he asks. You nod and swallow a lump of lead. You’ve got nothing to lose. Here goes nothing.
You sit down in the chair and you lift up your shirt, facing your rib cage towards the tattoo artist. He asks if you are ready. You hear yourself say, “Yes, more ready than I’ve ever been for anything in my life.” You take a deep breath and feel the cold, metal, needle-tool touch your skin. For a second it is painful; you liken it to scratching really bad sunburn. Your adrenaline starts to kick in a little and you have stopped sweating and are finally starting to relax.
You watch him draw on your skin in the mirror. Within a matter of minutes, he’s done an outline on the side of your body- an empty design, ready to be filled in. He switches needles and adds the finishing touches.
“You’re through,” he says. “How do you like it?” he asks. And you think in your head, rather sarcastically, Well, if I don’t like it, it’s a little late, isn’t it? You look in the mirror, assessing his handy-work and you smile. You love it; it’s exactly what you had in mind. You leave him a tip on the way out and think, He was a nice guy.
You leave the parlor with a bandage over your painted flesh and an instructions sheet that tells you how to wash it and care for it properly. They tell you it will bleed a little and that it will be sore for a little while. You think, That’s fine. Just like the rest of me.
You’ve just done what you’ve always wanted to do: you’ve put a permanent mark on your body of something meaningful.
Wild birds are not used to a cage. They might be irrationally against the confined space, so beware. They might bang on it, pace, or bite the bars, trying to escape. Eventually, though, they calm down and will warm up to the idea of having shelter and food provided. Every wild bird secretly wants to be cared for, to become domesticated. It’s putting them back into the wild once they’ve been loved that is the difficult part.
Your bird, if injured, may sing a sad song. Sometimes though, it is only after you return them to the wild that you come to recognize that, in fact, it was a happier tune they sang in the cage and here, back in the world, they begin to moan all sorts of desolate sounds. Every now and then, the bird you have rescued will not sing at all. That is the most heartbreaking situation, as it means that your bird is very unlikely to ever fly again.
You’re done being emotionally reckless. Now, you’re just plain reckless, but in an odd sort of way, you’ve started to live your life again. Sky diving, tattoos, everything you’ve ever wanted to do- all played out when and how you want. Spontaneous, but you are in control. You are soaring. In another life, if you were superstitious, you would have guessed you were a bird. They’re this free aren’t they?
Every now and then though, if you’re not off getting some “life high” or adrenaline rush, you feel a little sad, a little broken-winged-like. You remember waking up to birds chirping most of your life out almost every window, everywhere you’ve been. It’s funny how you’ve noticed lately a greater silence. You haven’t heard those beautiful creatures sing in a very long time. You wonder what made your song-bird stop crooning. You narrow it down to one of two possibilities: she has been killed or perhaps she has finally flown away.
Either way, your soul aches for her song. Until another bird comes along, you hum softly to yourself.