A Little Snippet from the Essay I’m Writing

by nicolecallihan


The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,

When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!

Fear is something that settles, like a down pillow slept on night after night. When my husband called with the news of the bird, I double locked the door. I’m not sure now what I believed the bird could do to me, but some fear that, years ago settled deep inside me, was stirred, and I tasted feathers in my mouth, and my neck felt hot, and the hearts inside of me were not beating but pecking.

When I was a girl—five, maybe six—I found a seagull feather on the shore, and I carried it with me everywhere I went. It was my pen, my flower. It was my cigarette and lollipop. It was my bit of hope that sucking its juices would make me sprout my own wings.

A single disembodied feather. That winter, I lost it.

Three decades later, I am hunkered in the foyer, clutching wheat bread in my fist, terrified of what will happen if the door opens. My husband told me later that the bird was tiny, so small it could fit in my hand; two, he said, could fit in your hand. (That would be worth four in a bush.) What, he asked, did you possibly think it could do to you?