The Bird

Jarod Roselló


She wakes and feels an overwhelming sense of sadness. She sits up in her bed and waits for it to pass, believing it to be a holdover from a dream, some departing sensation that has lingered longer than it should. She tries to remember what kind of dream she was having, but can't, and thinks that's probably best since it was clearly a very sad dream, probably one with some kind of severe emotional trauma: death of a loved one or something as bad. And she thinks this because of the severity of the melancholy she feels at this moment: like a heavy stone in her chest. She stands, stretches, walks to the bathroom and urinates, dresses, eats breakfast, brushes her teeth, takes the dog out for a walk, but still the sadness endures. She sits down on the chair in her living room and checks the time. She needs to go to work, but she doesn't want to. Instead, she wants to keep sitting in this chair and maybe just sit in the chair all day until the sun is gone. She gets her jacket and walks to her car, sits inside, turns on the engine, puts on the radio, and drives to work. On the way she sees: a single cloud, unattached to any others, absolutely still in the sky above her head. Also: two black cars that look identical to one another driving beside each other in separate lanes on the highway. And: a man pushing an empty stroller. She gets to work, parks her car in the part of the parking lot she almost always parks in, gets out of the car, locks the car behind her, then locks the car again just to be sure, and walks into her office building. In the elevator, a woman asks her what floor she is going to and for some reason the question confuses her despite the fact she understands exactly what's being asked. She nods her head, says something resembling "Yes," and then when she finally regains her composure, says, "Three, please," but the three is already pushed and the woman smiles at her, and she can only look away. Yesterday, she would have made conversation with this woman—a woman who works in the building, evidently on the same floor as she, and whom she thinks she has seen in the building before and even made small talk with in this same elevator—but this morning she can only look at the floor and the blurred reflection of her own face in the wall of the elevator, and then she closes her eyes for the remaining seconds of the ascent. She does good work. She works for many hours, and the tedium of her work seems lighter today: She doesn't feel the oppressive weight of paperwork and emails. Instead, she feels like a machine: able to move swiftly through her duties, closing out files, opening new accounts, logging information into these accounts. In the afternoon, she realizes she forgot to eat lunch and then realizes she forgot to pack lunch and she thinks, Am I hungry? She isn't sure. A bird flies into the glass of the window near her cubicle. She doesn't see the bird, only hears the noise it makes when its body hits the glass. Someone says, "It was a bird," and someone else says, "Is it dead?" And normally, she thinks, this is the sort of thing she would occupy herself with: she would stand up from her desk, walk over to the window, she would (she knows) go downstairs and check on the bird. Jessica, the woman in the cubicle beside hers, whom she has known for many years and has formed a close work friendship with comes into her cubicle and says, "A bird hit the window. Paul thinks it's dead," and she knows she is saying this to her because this is the kind of thing that would get her all riled up. She says, "Oh. Poor thing. I've heard of that happening before. Confusion from the glass, I think." Jessica says, "Are you okay? You seem a little out of it today," and she says, "I'm just tired. I didn't sleep well," except that's a lie, she slept as well last night as she sleeps every night. What she doesn't want to say is: "I'm feeling very sad today, and I'm not sure why," so she says she's feeling very sleepy instead, and she knows this is an acceptable answer. She says, "I should go check on the bird," and Jessica says, "Just to make sure it's not lying there injured," and she says, "I'm sure it's dead. But it's good to know for sure," and she stands up and walks to the elevator and thinks about taking the stairs, but can't decide which she prefers so she takes the stairs because, why not? Outside, she finds the bird easily, lying almost directly beneath the window. It is dead. She looks up to the third floor and can see a few people standing at the window. One of them, she thinks, is Jessica. She makes a thumbs up gesture and walks back inside. Upstairs, Jessica says, "It's alive? The bird's alive?" And she says, "No, no, it's dead." Jessica says, "Oh, because you gave a thumbs up. I thought that meant it was alive," and she says, "No, I meant it was dead." She understands how that gesture was confusing and now doesn't know why she gave a thumbs up. She could have just as easily shaken her head or given a thumbs down or made that facial expression that means tragedy has struck. Instead, she gave a thumbs up and confused everyone, but it doesn't matter, she thinks. Or it does. She doesn't know. She's not feeling well. And her not feeling well is making it hard for her to make decisions. At five o'clock, she walks to her car. In the parking lot she hears someone call her name, but she pretends not to hear because she knows if she does she will have to have a conversation with that person, and despite the fact that she doesn't know who is calling her name, she knows she doesn't want to have a conversation. She shuts her car door, starts the engine, and pulls out of the parking lot. When she gets to the highway, she thinks, I have had a bad day today. I have had a strange day. Something is not right. Something is off. She parks her car and goes inside. The dog greets her and this usually makes her happy, but today it makes her nothing. She pets the dog, puts a leash on the dog, and walks it around the block. She goes back home and makes dinner but only eats half of it and because she can't decide if she should keep the rest for tomorrow, she leaves it on the counter. She showers, sits in the chair in her living room, and watches television. She turns off the television. She reads the first few paragraphs of a book. She walks around the house, sits in various chairs. At one point, she sits in her car because she thinks she wants to go somewhere, but then forgets what it is she wants, forgets if she ever wanted to go anywhere at all. The dog brings her a toy—a stuffed octopus—but instead of throwing it, she holds it against her chest. At nine o'clock she is still feeling sad and she wants to investigate this sadness, so she thinks, What did you do to make yourself feel so sad? But she can't come up with an answer. She thinks, Did something happen to make you sad? But the only thing she can think of is that dream she thinks she may have had despite the fact she can't recall any of it. She lies on her back in bed. The dog snores beside her. She holds the stuffed octopus in her left hand. She thinks, In the morning I will feel better. She shuts her eyes and waits for sleep to come. And it does.