It felt like she had stood there for as long as time, always in her skewed beret, dull-coloured dresses and a cardigan that seemed to not have a preferred season but whose season should have ended, it was so worn-out he could make out holes in it. He wondered if she swayed towards the grey hues on purpose, if she thought, in grey he, or anyone else, would struggle to make her out in this mass of birdiness. Indeed, the only prominent colour belonged to her incongruently fancy heels. Sometimes he wondered what her eyes looked like but had no way of seeing for, like everyone, he preferred to keep a proper distance. And what was her deal with the stupid birds, too? They sh-t, they look ugly, they’ve no brain – at least not like proper animals do.
Despite his undying curiosity, it was not in his plan to approach her. He refrained from interfering even when the little children would run out of their homes, full of inexplicable excitement which kids seem to possess just from being outdoors, and throw little stones at her. He knew full well people rarely grow to like anyone different from them, people’s nasty nature has always been of wonder to him. He could tell she knew it, too. It didn’t seem to bother her, being pointed at. And he was curious if that had always been the case or she’d learned it through the years, the way so many do, the way he had done. One day, and that was a solid promise, he’s going to leave his balcony, step out through the squeaky front door and give these little assholes a whooping. One day, when he felt ready, he would move closer to the birds.
“A day sooner rather than later?” – a timid thought. There was something more to this woman than everyone could see, more than he himself could see. She looked headstrong, as if she was certain everyone was underestimating her value. With the birds circling around her, flapping their wings, pushing each other out of the way for more crumbs – it’s unmistakable, even from the distance, that her external poverty, her being treated poorly by everyone around did not, could not, deter her from loving life. Damn, if he possessed even a touch of social skills, he might have even come down and spoken to her today, right now. But first, his words have to be written, maybe even rehearsed slightly, to make sure they do come out, with sound and all. He used to get mad at these social inadequacies, but at his age anger solved nothing, he was just tired mostly. One day, yes, sooner rather than later, yes, he would approach her and look her in the eyes.
He wondered if she knew the story of the third bird and if she didn’t, would he share it with her? About the bird that would quiet-, quiet-, quietly listen to the male birds get louder and louder still? And when they have sung their voices out, then, and only then will she speak up and choose the man whose song she liked the best? He hated this story, it would never sit well with him, this cunning bird patiently letting everyone argue: who will be the better partner, who will give her better seed, who will fight for her when times are difficult. If he’d been one of the birds no chance he would ever have been chosen. Fighting was not part of his life’s vocabulary. An odd duck aptly was. An odd duck standing on the balcony computing ice-breakers and clawing at shreds of bravery to attract attention of a fellow odd duck standing her ground despite her inability to stand firmly on it. If he had to think in bird terms, this would make more his scene.
“Hey.. you.. how's it going?.. you good? 'cuz I'm good.. Hi!.. Uh, what's up? Nothing... You ok? Great.. how are you?” Excellent, his starter speech was writing itself.
“WHY BIRDS?”, he would eventually master.
“My child has told me that if I feed them they will sing. I don’t know where she is now.” – would be what he hears back.
And her eyes would look as grey and fragile as the dozens of wings around her.