I think I’m dreaming. Every time I look out of my window the sun is setting, but when I step back sunlight fills my room like water. I drown in light, suffused by it. Hollowed of all else. I’ve forgotten what day it is. I thought it was Saturday. I think it was two days ago when things were going backwards. The world is stuttering, or I am dreaming.
Perhaps I am a swan on the lake, dreaming of being human? I pluck my feathers and hide them in a box, hoping they will be gone when I wake up. Is that a dream of a dream, or a dream of a wish? I think dreams are sometimes wishes you make in your sleep. Not all wishes are good ones.
Are there not fairy tales wherein girls dream of becoming swans and swans dream of becoming girls? Perhaps all swans are maidens trapped in feathers, and doomed to mourn lost lovers.
But not me. Were you to strip my skin and find the feathers beneath, they would not be elegant white plumage. I am the Blue Jay’s daughter. I squawk and chatter, gossip and steal. I have no serenity. I am, however, almost guaranteed to end up mourning a lost lover. Nana tells me that girls who cannot mind their tongue will never marry.
Perhaps I don’t want to marry.
Perhaps I don’t want to wear a white dress. White plumage. Be a swan for a day and marry my prince. Perhaps I don’t believe in fairy tales.
Tired of drowning, I sit by the window in the light of the setting sun and count my feathers. Minus the ones I gave to the Magpie, I have exactly one hundred and thirty-three. Is that enough for a whole bird? I don’t think so. The average human has one hundred thousand hairs on their head. Does it not follow that a bird would have as many feathers?
I have a long way to go before I have enough feathers to fly with.
Better not jump then.
Sunday 1st – Year of Elders, 1967 – The Village of Almado
Leap year. Took a long time to jump. I got lost in the 29th. Couldn’t find my way out. Sometimes we forget that the door is closed and that we must open it. Simple as that. Opening my door. It’s a strange compulsion of humanity to be so engrossed in solving a riddle we forget the existence of all else.
I might have stayed lost forever if papa hadn’t opened my door to demand to know why it was I hadn’t come down for dinner. I’m sad to have missed it. We had Poisson. My nana leaves a tuft of feathers around their necks. It makes mama angry, but she won’t do it any other way.
Sleeping on a hungry belly is no fun. I kept waking to the sound of it growling in the darkness. Angry, hungry belly. I had five eggs for breakfast to make up for it. Thank goodness all this activity with time and the Blue Jays hasn’t upset Margritte and Matilda, our hens. If anything, they lay more eggs than ever.
I cooked some on the backwards day, hoping to find another chick.
Fate is not cooperative, and nor is time. Although once I did find one already boiled in its shell. Amusing.
Mama is calling…
I saw the albinos! Mama called me to fetch some milk from the store and I saw the albinos! They’re beautiful. White, like snow flakes, like swans, but not like Commelina, who is dark as I am. They have soft pink eyes and such elegant, slender limbs. Every movement is a dance. I could watch them forever. But I could never tell them apart. Even the lines around their eyes are identical.
They didn’t notice me. I hid behind the shelves whilst they were buying bread and honey. They bring their notes with them, pre-written. Somehow I thought they’d write them in the store. Now I wonder if they write them at all. Perhaps they have thousands of notes, printed on a press, for every possible occasion. There are printing presses with letters just like the elegant hand on those notes.
I told Commelina about them on the way home, she’s almost out of her shell and extremely cross. She hissed at me. Bitch. She knows I’ve been dying to prove they’re real, that people aren’t lying to me. Things are so strange lately that I believe nothing unless I see it with my own eyes. Petra insists that is insanity.
How can she say it?
It is no less than rank foolishness to blindly believe anything one is told, no matter how nonsensical, just because one has seen a few unbelievable things.
I’m glad the albinos are real.
Somehow that makes me feel safer. As if the world around me, fluid only a moment ago, has once again regained its solidity. I will look into the surface of it and see only my own face, as it is now, looking back at me.
And I will know that I am here. That I am not dreaming.
© Ren Warom 2014