She landed on my window sill on the night of the spring equinox. I didn’t imagine it. Marcia says I imagined it because she’d rather I did. No-one really wants to think of their lover as having a night visitor –even an avian one and even though I’ve assured her that it’s over. It is certainly over because I slammed the bedroom window on the night of the autumn equinox. It ripped out four of her strongest flight feathers. I found them in my garden – tipped with blood. And then I wrote a poem all about Marcia and true love. But, anyway, that’s another story.
The owl was something else – not a woman, not a poet, not a lover. She was some sort of gabby diversion. I don’t suppose I would have heard her if she’d been the usual sort of little owl. They are small, silent, deadly only to rodents. She could’ve perched on the edge of that skylight, watched me with her round, saucer eyes and then left. I was sobbing and banging my head on things like I do – all heartbreak and confusion. But she started talking as soon as her talons had gripped the metal strip of the Velux – her beak clicking shut after each word, like a trap.
‘What’s this all about?’
That was her way – direct to the point of rude.
‘My heart is wounded. Shattered.’
‘Is it? Why’s that then?’
I didn’t really like it, the way she cut though all my beautiful mystery and asked me straightforward questions, but she was circling my bedroom by this point. For some reason it wasn’t surprising but it was interesting – and she was fascinated by me. That I did know. That I always know – man, woman, owl – they all like me. She sat on the bedside table and tried to show me her best side and all her tricks – swivelling her neck, that sort of thing. I sobbed again and spread my hands in despair.
‘Because she can’t love me…’
‘Well, probably best to find someone else then. Or something. I don’t know. How long’s this been?’
She was chasing mites in her feathers. She really isn’t the prettiest owl I’ve ever seen – a bit dumpy, ragged, battered looking. But she seemed quite settled there.
‘Years? Oh, for fuck’s sake. That’s silly. Have you seen my neck? It goes all the way round, yeah? And I don’t take up much room.’
She shifted and almost tumbled onto my bed. I wasn’t sure if it was clowning or clumsiness but she laughed anyway. Owl laughter is on the edge of sinister; her pointed beak was wide, her little worm of a tongue visible. But I laughed too and I let her sit on my palm for a moment. I closed it gently and felt her breathing. It was a level of trust I didn’t expect.
I slept better that night. When she’d hopped up to the split window and coasted off into the night, I settled in my bed and felt good – good enough, anyway. I think I’m worth something much more impressive, to be honest. I was slightly offended that the universe had sent me a battered little owl. A panther might’ve been more appropriate. Or a vast grizzly with teeth like ivory spears. But she was something. And the woman causing my heart to bleed, I was getting tired of her. She gazed nicely but this owl was right – it was time I moved on. Heart-bleeding woman was so resistant and tiring. This little owl was amusing.
So that was how it went for the summer. I left my window open and the owl came. I let her sit there for hours, telling me owlish things about what it’s like to be that small. I put up with the directness because it made a change from sobbing on my own. She liked my smiles, my attentive fingers in the feathers on her neck. I fed her black beetles and she flew around my garden in the curling smoke of my cigarette.
I don’t know what it was that made me shut her out. I think I just had to. That sort of direct stare is too much after a while. I’m not someone who wants to be looked at like that – hard. And Marcia was coming round now and she didn’t like the dust left on my pillow from the owl’s preening. She didn’t like the occasional wisp of down in my hair. And I couldn’t throw myself properly into the next thing with this irritating owl asking questions all the time – acting like she had a right to my airspace.
So one night, the trees were blowing against the navy blue sky and you could feel the change of season, I shut the window. She was just coming in to land, calling out to me with that loud ‘hellooo!’ that I’d found so sweet once. I flipped the Velux closed – tight, with a very clear thud. She screeched and I held my hands over my ears. There was this horrible, ungainly tumbling noise as she skittered down the tiles of my roof. I wanted the noise to stop. I really wanted my silence again.
The poem I wrote about Marcia – it’s so beautiful. I think the owl blood worked something into the words. You can’t see it – it’s obscured in the ink. But I think it’s worthy of me and all the beauty I find in the world.