They weren’t birds and they weren’t people, so we didn’t know what to call them at first. They had feathers on the front of their arms and who the hell knew where else. My husband was one of the ones who was afraid of them, but I didn’t marry him for his bravery, I married him because he knew more about the weather than I ever could.
I remember it all too well, we were half-young and all-married and living in a town known for its toothlessness, it made me feel like I was in a cartoon sometimes, the way everyone walked past us, smiling with their big blank gums, and all those pets they pulled along with them too. Big pets and little pets. So many fucking pets.
I wasn’t a detective by any means, but I could tell as soon as we moved, something was going on there. The sky was loud in all the wrong places, the days were short and long and everybody said the sun could do all sorts of other things if it wanted to… I didn’t get what they meant by that. Again, I was no Sherlock Holmes.
When they showed up we thought they might be some sort of new pet too, but as soon as we got a good look at their faces we knew they couldn’t possibly be, there was too much action behind their eyes, it was obvious they knew better than to be leashed around.
While I’m telling you about their faces, I’ll tell you this too, they were round and slightly pink, and sharp in the middle. They didn’t quite have beaks, they looked a lot like people. Maybe seventy-five percent like people. I think I liked the way they looked, avian and mammalian and big eyed. Like children.
My husband would take a big breath whenever we saw one on the street. He’s always been a fragile man.
There had been a break in the summer and we weren’t expecting anything special. The garbage was piling up in the kitchen, the mannequins were on display on the street, I was trying on new ways to be mad at buildings. I used to wear my frustration on my sleeves, but then I was doing my best to cover my contempt under my clothes. As deep as it could go I guess.
My husband would tell me to take the elevator to meet him for lunch and sometimes I did. He ate a lot of salads and chewed quietly, one day he found a butterfly in his lunch bag, its wings were blue as a baby boy’s room, we laughed as it waved away. Summer was when we got along best, I bet it’s like that for a lot of couples, I don’t know.
Anyways, we were closer to black and white living than I’m letting on, it was pretty boring for the most part. I was working in a field I understood too well, sharpening equations and balancing ledgers for people who had grown up taller than me. I didn’t have a fling with my boss despite what my husband says. My hands were just too tired to get into it, even though I could’ve.
Maybe I was waiting for something larger to walk its way all over me. One way or another, I was just waiting.
My husband started to call them bird people after a few days of calling them, “them” and “they.” I kind of felt that name was disrespectful to birds and people both, these creatures were something new, and needed a new name of course, not some hackneyed mashup of their most accessible characteristics.
I tried on a few names, “flickities”, “koo koo karoos”, “laylas”, before I settled on one I liked, “curtsies” (after the ways their legs bowed when they walked). I never thought to ask them what they wanted to be called. Sooner or later they’d tell me I guess I imagined.
The big question we had to begin with was whether or not they could fly. They could, but not very high and not very far. They were better at gliding, but even still, they didn’t take to the air too often, not that I saw anyways. Every once in a while when I was driving around in my car (it was yellow) I would see one up perched in a tree, but I always assumed they just crawled up there to get a better view, it barely occurred to me they could be flying around all the time when I wasn’t looking.
I barely ever saw it happen, I don’t have a terribly good sense of my surroundings sometimes, that’s all I’m saying.
Another question is where they came from. My husband insisted they came from bad families, but I eventually convinced him otherwise. My theory was they came from some place colder and migrated here for the warm summer weather. It wasn’t much of a theory, a hog-tied kindergartner could’ve come up with it on the spot. I liked it. It was simple.
I guess it didn’t really matter where they came from, but we were curious of course. Either way, there they were, a couple of them at first, and then more and then probably somewhere between ten and twenty. It was easy to tell them apart, some had long, fat, feathers, some had tiny, prickly ones, some had skinny necks and some were stubby shaped.
Also, believe it or not, they had numbers on their backs. Big numbers, like the ones on sports jerseys. That made a lot of people think they escapees of some sort of experiment, but I just figured they liked numbers. I liked numbers, I guess probably I was projecting.
My husband had these horrible glasses then. We still danced in the living room sometimes, but he was clumsier than ever. At work someone kept telling him the Earth’s poles were reversing fast (too fast!), that’s the sort of stuff he brought home at least. Our lives were less than fireworks on the rise, that’s for sure, far, far less, but there was a lot lower we could go too. My hands were still soft, they didn’t hurt like they do now.
I still believed one day there would be a stage in the sky where I would watch something spectacular happen. I’m pretty sure I don’t feel that anymore.