There aren't very many things I know right now. One of them is that I'm hurt. The other is that I am not really
there at the moment. Where
here is, I'm not sure. I can hear some things--the loudest, sharpest things--like you might hear them from underwater, and I can dimly feel hands moving, probing across my broken body, pressing.... A few places, I feel the hands move around obstacles that shouldn't be there, unnatural places like my calf and shoulder.
I can't move. It's...it's like being in that special part of sleep where you aren't sure if you're dreaming or not, just under the surface. But gol, I know I'm not. And I know if I wake myself up enough to move, to open my eyes, the pain will come.
So I lie still, rocking in my fluid dreams like something yet unborn, letting the kind stranger-hands take care of what is left of me, floating over my surface like the shadows doves cast when they fly.
[[Coming home from school. Books in muted colors in my arms, and pigtails. Charlie runs ahead--in the shorts of boyhood--and he shoves me to the side a bit. I shout and run to catch up, but he's already stopped, thrown his books to the ground. He's bending over, looking at something on the pavement. "Charlie, what is it?" I catch up, stop myself in my shoes. I too drop my books, for what he's examining is a little bird, still just in downy feathers. I can see its little heart beating through its tiny chest. A little pigeon chickie with a broken wing.
"Oh, let's take it home," I plead. I reach for it with hands that are pudgy and small in memory, and Charlie swats them away.
"I'll get it in my pencil box. You'd drop it." So he takes his pencils and his gum-tree eraser in his hand and gives them to me. Of course, I'll have to hold all his things, him having such a delicate little cargo, but I don't mind. I'm entranced by the little bird, by the careful process by which Charlie picks it up and puts it in the box, slides it closed but for a crack for air. I gather up all our things and we run all the way home, all the way up to our little flat.
Mama takes a minute to understand our excited rushing words, empties a little tin of whatever was in it and lines it with a dish towel. She slides the box open with utmost care, tips the birdie out into her cupped hand like she's pouring sugar. She looks at it for a moment, touches it gently with one finger, and she lays it down in its new box ever so carefully--]]No, that isn't right.
[[Mama tips the little bird out into her hand, looks at it for a second, head cocked--then swings her arm like a baseball pitcher and throws the chick against the wall which it hits and stops with a little thud and falls to the stained floor like a wet flour sack.]]The dream ends there and there is no other dream to take its place so I close my eyes--the inner ones, the real ones--and slip down all the way, all the way to where I can't hear and I don't have to feel anymore. I'll be back later, but not until someone wakes me. Until then, I'm just a little broken bird put away in the dark of a pencil box.