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11:21PM

"The Bir's"

My latest essay at The Hairpin, about the unique friendship between a man and some persistent birds.

Here's an excerpt:

One night in his Paris garden apartment, my best friend Juan was making me dinner (spaghetti with frankfurter rondelles, carrots, tomatoes, and onions, his specialty), and he told me that a bird had come to visit him the day before. He was puzzled that birds were always coming into his apartment from the garden. I explained to him that it was only to be expected: viewed from the garden, his place didn’t really seem to be inhabited by a human being at all. The back windows opened onto the garden at eye level — and by opened, I mean opened wide every morning, all year round, whatever the weather, because Juan believed in fresh air, and he never put the heat on.

One winter, Juan had my dog for the night. She gave him a fright in the morning when he had trouble waking her up from her curled up frozen torpor, and he was afraid to think what might have happened if he’d slept in. The apartment was very dark and very damp, the stone walls were raw, the ceiling beams were hung with spider webs, and there was practically no furniture. Clothing left in his closet for any length of time re-emerged covered in mold. The only reason Juan himself wasn’t continually covered in mildew was because for his birthday and for Christmas I always gave him a good supply of those little humidity-absorbing boxes that they sell in hardware stores.

The birds, starlings mostly, would peer into the gaping window from the garden tiles, cocking their little iridescent heads to the right and to the left, viewing it with each eye, intrigued, whistling in awe. Perhaps they mythologized it, telling tales to their hatchlings about the Forbidden Cavern at the foot of the garden. (read more)

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