Like any other workaday morning, I found myself walking towards a familiar nondescript bus stop in downtown Dallas. Its by the curb on a busy intersection. The bus stop is comprised of a single uncomfortable metal bench that’s securely fastened to the sidewalk (like anyone would want to steal the blasted thing), a trash recepticle that is also bolted to the concrete, and a lonely looking sign designating this as a bus stop whether it looks inviting or not. There are bus stops just like this one littered all over the city of Dallas and practically every other major metropolitan city on the planet. Nothing unique about this one, aside from it happens to be my way station most mornings on my way to my daily grind.
My usual routine is to sit on the uncomfortable bench and wait for my bus. Other people come and go. Other buses come and go. Few people bother to sit on the uncomfortable bench. Perhaps they know something I don’t. Nowadays since I hobble about with a cane due to a bum knee that thinks it can tell when the weather is changing and often gets it wrong, an unwelcome bench is more welcome to me perhaps than most.
This morning is different however, because it had been raining. Not right this second, so I hadn’t gotten wet enough yet to where it didn’t matter but the seat was wet. I found myself standing there leaning laboriously on my cane between the bench and the trash can, wondering whether standing there was more or less comfy than a wet butt would be for the rest of the morning. Then I looked in front of the bench and observed evidence: tho absent now, someone had been here, and then left just before I arrived. Perhaps during the recent drizzly rain.
Had I sat down on the wet bench, at my feet would have been several partial slices of now very soggy white bread. This might be nothing had it been perhaps in the afternoon but this is around six or seven am we’re talking about. If the sun has come out, the cloud cover is hiding that fact. It was still rather dark grey. I thought it a bit too early for feeding pigeons, which by the way were not at the moment visible at all. Perhaps more curious than the torn up pieces of bread however was a single solitary surgical glove, like the kind used by the police at crime scenes, or used by a nurse’s aide just before she draws blood. In the recent rain this single glove draped alongside several pieces of bread looked like a crime scene to me. My mind wandered a bit trying to ascertain under what circumstances would bread and a surgical glove possibly be left like this, so early in the morning? Perhaps whoever was feeding the sleeping pigeons before I arrived was allergic to bread and didn’t want to touch it. Then she was kidnapped by crazy people in a van just before my arrival, and in the scuffle she lost her surgical glove as they dragged her into the van.
As I conducted my mental CSI gymnastics in my head while still debating if i wanted to lean there on my cane or sit down and disturb the crime scene, I was visited upon by a single solitary figure. The fragile little creature swooped in low below the radar of my peripheral vision and landed at the far edge of the curb. He stood no more than three inches tall, in comparison to my nearly six foot frame. He was a jet black bird with eyes that sparkled in the dim light and he turned to face me as he folded his wings into himself like a Transformer toy. One of his eyes was on me and the other was on the soggy bread spread out between us. He sized me up instantly, as if I were a sentry guard and he were a swashbuckling robin hood.
Perhaps he and I were birds of a feather, though I didn’t think about it at the time. We were both dressed in black. His feathery coat glistened with moisture from the air. His beak was a dark ember color in the cloudy grey haze, and while I have no beak to speak of, my orange shirt sort of echoed the hue. I wore a black hoodie and black slacks this morning. Perhaps from the right angle in the dark, I’d look like a much taller, distant relative of his. However, I don’t even recall entertaining these thoughts at the time. At first i didn’t think we had anything in common.
My new acquaintance tentatively took a daring step towards the bread, eyeing me intently as he did, and it was in that instant that i realized we had more in common than i could have previously imagined: he was favoring his right side too. His left leg stuck out at an awkward angle and he couldn’t put much weight on it. As he crept forward he did not so much walk as hop. I sort of found myself taking a half step back instinctively, to show i had no interest in the bread, and something very curiously began to transpire between us. I know a bird of his size has a brain smaller than a walnut and perhaps no scientist in the field of animal studies would concur with me that the following event could have truly transpired, but I only have my anecdotal evidence to preserve my sanity.
This very tiny and yet majestic creature eyed me up and down like a veteran heavyweight boxer training a journeyman. He seemed to notice I too was favoring my right side, and he even cocked his head to the side and eyed my cane, kinda nodding his head in approval and perhaps a bit of envy. Traversing the impossible breadth of everything from anthropology to zoology that stood inside the inches between us like a grand canyon, we somehow found a way for just an instant, to break common ground of mutual understanding. I could not break bread with him however, cuz that soggy stuff was gross looking, and had touched the ground for far longer than two seconds.
The black bird had inched his way close enough to me to reach the bread. As he stuck out his beak to rip a piece of crust from the wet pavement, he simultaneously somehow made a sign to his compatriots who flew in out of nowhere. I was suddenly surrounded by a flurry of wings as this black robin hood’s merry men each attempted to take a stab at their new found spoils. I was almost expecting some elaborate fanfare of horns to celebrate their success, but instead, as if on cue from me, my bus pulled up. This scared the birds of course and they flew off again as swiftly as they had arrived, releasing me from their enthralling magic spell.
As I boarded the bus and found my seat, I found myself mulling over what had just transpired before me with utter amusement, and perhaps a knowing smirk or a bit more of a sparkle in my own eye. As it turned out, the little black bird that was so daring to confront me as he did was a scout for his brood, if not the ringleader of a ragtag gang of street savvy ruffians and though crippled, these other flying bruisers with blades for hands looked up to my new acquaintance. In fact, some of them may have witnessed the event that caused his leg injury, because this was obviously not the first time he had stuck out his beak as their champion.
What I didn’t tell you was about twenty minutes before this, I almost got ran over by a truck. I was crossing a street near a bridge and I was wearing mostly black but with an orange shirt under my unzipped coat. I thought the driver saw me, and there was oncoming traffic so I thought it safe to cross the street in front of him, but rather than stop at the stop sign, he was only yielding, and as he gunned his truck forward I found myself inches away from death. Fortunately I pushed with my left arm and the cane got me out of the way just in time. It was very close. Close enough to give me shakes for awhile. Shakes that didn’t come from the cold morning wind. That could have been a bad start to my worst day.
However, after having met the early bird, I found myself feeling a sense of pride for people of all species who, like myself, favor our right side. We take risks and we have the wounds to prove it. When it’s warranted, we take the road less traveled, thus blazing the trail for others to follow. It was the good start to a great day; a day in which I’m happy to have cheated death for just a wee bit longer.