And This One is Full of Rain
The birds only come once a year. Always on my birthday, just as I’m blowing my age into candle smoke and choking down a sliver of over-sweetened cake because my mom came home early from work to bake it and she gets mad when I don’t eat.
But the birds are back, which makes it harder to forget the numbers, the calories and the sixteen and the time. The time until my death. Or someone’s death — my grandmother’s never been good at predicting the future. I only half-learned it, she tells me whenever I’m forced to go
over there because my mom thinks high schoolers still need babysitters. But you see, this shape is foreboding, she says, tracing whorls into the tea dregs. And this one is full of rain.
The birds are hungry for the streetlights. They stumble down telephone wires like drunks, bellies distended with the air they have gorged in the name of pride.
Here, I offer from my crouch on the front stoop. I flick all the porchlights on, even the ones I’m not supposed to because they shine right through the neighbor’s windows. The birds appear at my feet with their beaks split wide enough to eat the shrunken suns whole. They butter themselves in the molten gold.
I wonder if there are birds in the afterlife. I hope there are because I like feeding them light. There’s no weightiness to it as if you swallowed a day and all the clocks came out backward. Time is funny like that. It ebbs between my fingers until I blink and go unmoored.
My grandmother says that’s how you find yourself: you just need to follow the things bigger than your own body.
I don’t ask my mom if I can go to a party tonight. It’s my birthday and I just want to get drunk like the birds: papered in gold and fairy-soft on my feet. So I scatter their feather-slick shadows as I back the car I’m not supposed to know how to drive out into the street. The birds swarm around me, pooling in the dusty yellow scythes of my headlights.
At a random classmate’s house, I pull in too far away from the curb. The birds finally subside when I turn off the key.
My neighbors would throw a fit if they lived next to this house, where red and blue and pink and orange spill from every crevice to wash the landscape in neon.
Hey, good-looking, a boy mouths, singsong through the windshield. He sways to a silent rhythm and I swear a bird swoops down to nip a warning at his exposed throat.
Go away, I hiss to both. But he’s too puffed with air to heed my warning.
The bird cuts down again, wings angled into blades.
The boy folds against the hood so smoothly I can pretend he’s still alive.
It starts to rain just as I step inside. No one else seems disturbed by the corpse on the lawn or the raindrops fattened on the grass, so I’m not either. I let myself be jostled by hips and elbows and bodies that make me regret ever eating the birthday cake my mom baked. The numbers haunt me again. Sugar and flour and frosting and skin that sloughs away under the
pulsating of the music.
What’s the best way to kill a bird? my grandmother used to joke when she noticed the way they trailed me by the ribbons of my feet. Wring ‘em by the neck.
The bedroom reeks of something half-digested and diluted by illegal substances. I cocoon myself under the covers anyway. The sheets are still warm enough for me to pretend this is my house. But I start to drift out of time again, blinking and blinking until a couple so intertwined I can’t distinguish one figure from the other stumbles through the door.
Oh, sorry, one of them says as she slides her fingers into someone’s crotch. Is this room occupied?
I shift back into the present and shake my head. Slowly, then quickly and aggressively. No, no, I was just leaving. Please, uh, don’t let me stop you from doing– I gesture at the bed and flee.
There’s a dead bird on the roof. Its mouth gulps toward the moon, but the angle is off. I nudge it a little closer and hope something sweet trickles in.
What a shitty birthday, right? I laugh, more to the wind than to myself. Then, I struggle to my feet. I haven’t really had anything to drink — other than a few sips stolen from a plastic cup I found abandoned on the stair banister — but I still droop from side to side. Best way to kill a bird, I murmur as my feet make friends with the shingled edge. In the dark, it’s easy to see how the ground stretches into infinity, how maybe if I fall there will never be an impact.
Shit, are you going to jump? a boy crows from behind me.
I fall backward. No! Of course not. Are you?
He shrugs. Sure, why not. And he spirals into the air so fast I think I’ve become unhooked by time again. His limbs splay across the ground and I can’t help but laugh at the stick-figured cartoon he’s become.
One by one, everyone else from the party files onto the roof. Laughless and solemn. Wait, I call, but they are already flying themselves off the edge.
The birds descend to pick their skins. Maybe they’re hungry for touch too, or maybe they just want something pretty for their nests.
You see, this shape is foreboding, I hear my grandmother saying, and I can see her tracing their outlines crime scene style on the lawn. Time starts to skitter away from me again as the sky’s teardrops eddy their blood into tea stains.
Dana Blatte is a student from Massachusetts. Her work is published or forthcoming in perhappened mag, Parentheses Journal, and Eunoia Review. She strongly believes that almond butter is superior to peanut butter.
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