Things I Saw Today

-Three kittens playing with their mother’s tail.
-A man wearing a back-brace that looked kind of like a corset.
-Youtube videos of one of my heroes.
-Blog posts that have been open in the tab-bar at the top of my browser for days.
-The park outside my house, absolutely deserted because it was so freaking hot.
-“Bridesmaids,” the new Judd Apatow film.

Once in a while, I like making an actual effort to remember the day I’ve had. It’s refreshing.

Night Birds

Our apartment has huge windows in the adjoining kitchen and living room. It’s almost a balcony. Only it’s not. We have blinds that we lower and raise, depending on the hour, on how brightly the sun is shining, on how much privacy we want.

Big windows can be horrible if all you’ve got to look at is the inside of someone else’s house. If that’s the view you get, you have a sort of forced intimacy with whoever lives across – you know they see you, and you know that they know that you can see them. It can become very awkward, trying to time things right so as not to spy on each other. Maybe then you both become recluses and never catch a ray of sunlight.

We don’t have those kind of big windows. Ours overlook a relatively large oval-shaped park, surrounded by trees and lined by paths going around and through it. There are benches there where the Filipinos hang out and talk while their elderly charges sit, awkwardly, either unable or unwilling to talk with their peers. There are mothers and fathers walking strollers along the paths, trying to lull to sleep screaming babies, or maybe just sitting by empty strollers while their toddlers delight in the sandbox and the wooden pirate ship that dominates it. There are elementary-school kids and high-school teenagers walking to and from school every day, backpacks weighing them down, some in groups and some alone and some even more alone than the others. These are the things we see during the day.

At night, it’s harder to see. The lamps in the park are yellow and dim and sometimes blown out or simply not turned on. So we use our ears instead of our eyes. On some nights, we can hear teenagers sitting on the benches, whistling and yelling, the glowing red of their cigarettes the only light in the park. On other nights, it’s so silent out there that we long for a storm to come along, to thunder in the sky, to pour down rain so we can hear the tip-tap-drip on our windows.

The best nights, though, are when the night birds sing. We’ve never yet seen them, only heard them. Their cry is shrill, like a whistle, but it’s melodic as well. They seem to be yearning for something, missing something or someone so deeply that it hurts them. Their sound makes our hearts melt a little bit, and even as we smile and pause to listen to their lonely, beautiful cries, our hearts seem to tug at us, feeling a little sore and swollen all of a sudden. Our night birds let us share their desperate want for something unnameable, they nurture our longings, even if we don’t realize it’s happening.

I sometimes wonder if our night birds are like emotions – unseen, only heard somewhere deep, sometimes shrilly enough that it’s impossible to ignore them.

With Eyes Shut

I sit in front of my computer. My screen is showing the “Add New Post” page on my Worpress blog. I have nothing to say. I sit, and I stare, and my fingers ache from keeping the awkward position of just hovering above the keyboard. My mind feels blank.

And yet, I stop thinking for a moment. I stop trying to plan what I want to say. I realize that as I’ve been sitting here, I’ve been feeling a whole range of things quite outside the blank page on my screen and my thoughts on how to fill it. I shut my eyes.

I take a deep breath. My mother is cooking in the kitchen. She’s making a breaded chicken dish, and it smells wonderful. In fact, it smells so strongly that I know the people in the apartments below us can smell it too. I’m sure that they, like me, are salivating, feeling a sudden urge to eat something fried.

I let my breath out, and concentrate on my hearing. I can hear the sound of the sizzling chicken in the pan, and for a moment my sense of smell takes over again. I shift my concentration back to my ears, those oddly shaped things sticking to the sides of my head, and listen. I can hear my mother talking to the cats. I can hear Massive Attack playing on the stereo. Odd music, but beautiful. Part of the sounds of home in a way.

I think of my mouth, my sense of taste, and I realize that the smell in my nostrils is so dominant that I can almost taste the food already. I let it go, knowing that soon enough I will be tasting it in truth.

Finally, I think of my fingers, and the way they feel gliding blindly along the keyboard. They’re on familiar territory, and I feel that they’re hardly in my control because they manage to move so fast, darting from one key to the next and making another sound for my ears to hear – the tick-tack-click-clack of the keys being pushed down hard, each one only for a moment before my fingers jump over to the next key. If I’d look down and see how fast they were moving, or how oddly they looked, I would probably lose my focus entirely and they’d tangle up and make mistakes. Best to let my fingers alone and let them do as they will.

I open my eyes. I see the end result, the thing I was striving for – a full page.

Forever Graveyard

In the silence of the night, the spirits emerged.

Some of the spirits were elderly men and women, and they simply sat upon their graves, unmoving. They’d had a lifetime of movement and felt they’d earned their eternal rest. Others, the younger spirits mostly, frisked about, dancing and playing with the shadows and with each other. Ghostly mothers held onto equally ghostly babies, and ghostly fathers held the hands of young and ghostly children. Some families reunited, as they did every night, at one of the picnic tables in a far corner or between the trees amidst the graves. Some old lovers replayed their quarrels and affairs, frowning and smiling accordingly.

All in perfect silence. Someone walking outside the graveyard wall wouldn’t have heard a thing besides the rustle of the leaves in the wind or the scurry of a squirrel across the grass. If someone were to look over the wall, however, things would have been different.

It was very fortunate, the spirits of the graveyard agreed again and again, that there was a wall built around this particular graveyard. It was much too high for anyone to be able to peer in, and it had no easy footholds for a determined climber to take advantage of. The few who had managed to look over – by bringing a ladder, or by standing on someone’s shoulders, say – had been in such shock that they’d either never spoken of what they’d seen or had been carted off to a small padded room somewhere if they had spoken of it.

So the spirits of the graveyard replayed their lives night after night, laughing at the same jokes and dancing the same dances, waiting for something to change. But it never did. They never got bored, though. Their concept of forever was no different than their concept of now.

The only noteworthy events were when new spirits joined the old, and when that happened it was a grand occasion for all. It made even the new spirits forget what a different, what a sad, party was being had for them the next day or the day after that.

A Bit Batty

In front of my apartment building, there is a small lawn, and then some hedges and then the sidewalk. On the lawn, there is a rather large palm tree with a thick trunk and large, swaying branches. The tree is very fertile and well-taken care of and so it is always heavy with the small, light-brown fruit that certain palm-trees seem to bear.

As I arrived home from work the other night, I saw the most beautiful thing, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since then. There are always bats around that tree – they like the fruit on palm trees I believe, or at least this type of bat must do. But that night, as I came home from work later than usual, there were a huge group of bats flying around it. There must have been at least thirty or forty of the beautiful, winged beasts, and they were going absolutely crazy, flying up and down and around the tree, weaving through and around each other, always pulling up in time.

They came so close to me that I could see the light through their wings – I could even see the fur that is spread sparsely on their bodies. I could see the tiny claw at the end of each of their wings. I stood and watched them for at least five minutes, my head just swiveling around and around, following their dizzying movements. Ah, but they are marvelous animals!