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Neria and the Bird

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My new friend, Neria, was getting on my nerves. The reason I wanted to know her was because of her writing and drawing. Artistic talent. We had this in common. It was thrilling to find someone talented like me, and, it seemed, in the same way.
Is Neria me gone wrong?
Well, then she went to Israel and she met a man there. She came back and said it was the first time in so long, and she didn’t know if she would ever feel this way again. Oh yes! She was in love.
But everything she told me about the guy made me think he is a jerk. He talks about his old girlfriends. He doesn’t think to give her little gifts. I figured she would never see him again.
But then he came to Switzerland and spent a long weekend at her place. She rode the train to Zürich to meet his flight. She cooked for him. She gave him the best sex. And then he went away. She came over at 8.50 the morning he left. She told me that when they went out to dinner with her son, her son said that the guy didn’t seem to be listening to her and that it was strange that he didn’t put his arm around her. Nothing she told me about this guy helped me to understand why she has decided to love him.
Yesterday she called me after we exchanged emails. She said she had been thinking about her neediness, which I told her she has. She had been working on it. She had figured out that her reaction to his leaving was only partly the emotional stress. She realized that it was also due to her financial stress. There are bills she can’t pay. Her son’s stipendium hadn’t arrived. A girlfriend was giving them some money.
I was writing on my Sardenia/Corsica story all day. I worked from 7.30 (on emails for 1 ½ hours) until 5 p.m. with only a break for that phone call with Neria, lunch, and a 20 minute nap. When I tried to take the nap, Neria and her problems were crowding my head. It was better to get up and get back to my writing. While I wrote about Corsica, Neria disappeared. As soon as I stopped again, there she was. I went out onto the terrace and said, “Mom? God? Please help me with Neria.” I’m not sure I did that, but I’m pretty sure it happened. I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time, but was glad I had remembered them and that I could at least ask for help with this.
I didn’t want Neria in my head. I didn’t want to carry on an ongoing argument with her explaining why I didn’t want her to become emotionally dependent on me, and why she was ‘barking up the wrong tree’ and that I would never give her money. I didn’t want to practice explaining or excusing myself to her that I could not feel her huge needs. She mentioned suicide three times, twice in the future tense “I’ll throw myself off a bridge,” once in the past… “I nearly three myself off a bridge.” I’m sure it was Mom who told me, when someone mentions suicide, you’ve got to take them seriously. What if Neria killed herself and I hadn’t loaned her money. The thought made me mad. This is emotional blackmail! I told myself. I couldn’t tell if she was really crazy, or just a con artist.
I was washing the dishes. I don’t remember if I was still thinking of Neria, but I had forgotten all about asking Mom and God for help. I turned my head and there was Diamond on the window sill outside the kitchen window, a bird in her mouth, dangling at both ends like it was dead. I threw up my arms and screamed. Diamonds mouth moved in a ‘meow’ which I saw but couldn’t hear through the glass. I lowered my arms. I thought, “Give yourself a minute. Think.” I remembered, “She doesn’t kill things. She doesn’t hurt them. The bird may not be dead.” I opened the window and stood back to give her time to position herself and then jump onto the floor. As soon as she landed, I reached down and placed my thumb and forefinger at the corners of her mouth. I don’t know if I pressed to get her to open. I think I did. I said, “Let go.” She opened her mouth and the bird fell onto the parquette. It landed on its feet and stayed standing up. I lifted Diamond and carried her out of the kitchen, through the dining and living room, trying to think fast about where I could shut her in most quickly. I put her in the entrance hall and closed the sliding door. She stepped toward it, but it was too late to get out. The door closed. I went back to the kitchen.
When I came around the corner, the bird fluttered and scrambled along the floor, rising a few inches above the ground then landing in the far corner. So, it can still fly.
I have just spent three weeks writing about our trip. I have written about learning what to do about animals: the two dogs on the cliff road. The tiger kitten separated from its mother on the balcony of our Budoni apartment. I have just repeated, by writing it, the lesson I learned from the kitten: “Sometimes, I am the problem. Sometimes the best thing I can do is to get out of the way.”
That’s not what I did right away. First, I took a few steps toward the bird. It fluttered anxiously, then came to a rest in the corner. I was close enough to see its little chest breathing quickly, indicating panic. I backed out of the kitchen as quietly and slowly as I could. I went into the dining room and sat down at the table to think. I couldn’t tell if it was injured. If I tried to catch it to see, I might make matters worse. I probably couldn’t catch it anyway.
I stood up and opened the kitchen window and all the doors in the dining room. I could just go away, but this wouldn’t be good because I wouldn’t know if it had gone. Looking at that now, that’s not logical. Or is it. I wouldn’t know for sure that it was outside and not somewhere in the house. Yes, it was logical.
I went to sit at the dining room table, eye on the kitchen window so I would see it leave. I sat and waited. It was hard to be patient and just wait. I was curious, I guess. I tiptoed back to the kitchen. I peeked around the corner. The bird was in the far corner, sideways to me looking straight ahead of it at the black surface of the cupboard wall in front of its nose. A small creak escaped from my end of the counter. The bird turned its head to look at me. We looked at each other. I stepped back. When I peeked again, the bird looked at me again. It had a pretty red chest. Its feathers were ruffled at the left breast. It had defecated in three places, one by the window and where it was standing. The third place I thought was a drop of spilled chocolate from our hot fudge sundaes the evening before, until I cleaned it up.
I got down on my hands and knees and crawled along the opposite side of the room to within two meters of the bird. It fluttered up and flew to the ceiling. I stood and backed away. It flew to the edge of the skylight. Oh, no. I hoped it wouldn’t fly up there and get trapped like the wasps and butterflies sometimes do. But it turned and flew back to the wall, landing on Micha’s painting where it stood and rested.
That’s when I remembered what I had learned from the animals on our trip: ‘Sometimes I am the problem. Sometimes the best thing I can do is get out of the way.” I backed out of the room and retreated to the table, sat down and waited and watched. I few minutes later, the bird flew across the kitchen. It flew into the window pane on its way out. It flew across the terrace and into the bamboo. I was so glad I had watched; so glad I had seen where it went. I stood up and closed all the windows so it couldn’t fly back in. I reopened the kitchen window and looked for it in the bamboo. And there it was! It was resting about 6 feet from the ground and 80 centimeters to a meter from the post. I went back to work washing the dishes, turning my head from time to time to see if it was still there.
I felt an urge to throw breadcrumbs on the terrace; to take it a jar cap of water. But this would frighten it. It would probably fly somewhere else where it might not be as safe. The best thing I could do was watch and wait.
When Hubert came home, I showed it to him. He said it would probably rest there all night. That was the best thing it could do.
Once I looked away, and a minute later, when I looked again it had moved a little lower and farther to the left. That’s where it remained until it was so dark I couldn’t see it anymore.
In the morning, of course Diamond wanted to be fed first thing. After she eats, she always wants to go outside. I let her out, then went out myself, approaching the bamboo very slowly, watching the bamboos fronds as I moved closer and sideways. I am sure, if the bird was anywhere in there, I would have seen it. The little clump of darkness in the green and light is easy to spot once you know it’s there. I reached the bamboo and got down on hands and knees and peered all over the ground to see if it had fallen down, was lying there injured or dead. No bird.
Happy end to a happy story.
Only later, Saturday morning, did I remember about asking Mom for help. Only then did her answer become clear. Mom is a poet. She speaks in metaphors. Diamond is the metaphor for Neria’s life. It seems that it has her in it’s mouth and that she is dead or badly injured. However, the truth is, she can still fly. She is alright. The best thing I can do is move out of the way. She will not commit suicide. She will be alright.
Thanks, Mom.
I love you.


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