Cold Stone With Pigeons

by Anita Gazzard


Startled Pigeon scurries backward and disappears with a squawk as I complete my ascent to the top of this world. A mottled feather races across and catches in my hair but I ignore it and look out into this sharp night. Wind blows steady up here and slips frigid fingers around my neck and up my sleeves. I breathe deep and bare my teeth. Fangs, some would call them. Teeth to me.

So high am I that the scurry and growl of the road below cannot reach me and I am alone until Startled Pigeon flutters gracelessly down again, giving me an old-fashioned look and ruffling it's feathers in a busy-body way. It stares at me. I stare back. It knows me, you see. We've met before up in these stone tops and it is always receptive to a bribe. It's good at hypnotism too, it seems, and I lose a battle of wits with a flying rat and draw a bag from my clothes. Another pigeon arrives ping like magic and sidles close but Startled pushes it and it sidles off. It sidles everywhere, this one. I throw it a biscuit which it accepts without thanks. They're up late, these two.

I look out again across the deep dark park to the building opposite. It is The building, of course - the lucky one that holds her snug every night. It draws my eye the way she does. She is not there. It's still early in this winter night but I will wait until she arrives. Startled has settled on my knee and buried it's head in the bag. Sidles is sneaking crabwise behind me pecking at stone. The wind pushes my hair into my eyes and mouth and I pull my cloak closer about me.

She stayed below one night last week and I couldn't sleep. My bed chamber has never seemed so empty. Only a short way down the tunnel to her room and I could have changed my life. But no, I just turned and turned and wore out the night with my sleeplessness. That room carries her scent now. I can't think clearly when I go in there so I try not to do so too often. Keats, Shakspeare, Browning, they all knew.

A light is on. My breath catches and I lean forward pushing Startled from it's perch. I can see the balcony. She has come to the window and is looking out - she know I'm here but she hasn't my vision. I want to run to that place and accept everything she would give me. Instead I give Sidles another biscuit.

The wind has dropped and the sky is clear. I wave although I know she can't see me, and she places her hand on the glass for a moment then turns and disappears. I am at ease. Now it's time to go, back to the world below, leaving all I love in the cold world above. Trite, I know, but I'm capable of much worse.

I rise and Sidles flies away. To my surprise Starled comes with me all the way to the tunnels. It flies off, though, when I enter them.