By Jane-Rebecca Cannarella
All pigeons are feral. Even domesticated birds, like the grandchildren of rock doves, lived on sea cliffs. On a moss-smelling Wednesday morning, I left Sam’s house in South Philadelphia to cross the river home. Pigeons, wild even when they’re not, that roosted outside of his bedroom, were the morning’s soundtrack. Awakened by the noise, I abandoned the bed, leaving an imprint of our bodies. I begrudgingly left to travel towards the other side of Philadelphia. All pigeons are descendants of doves. Fairytale birds who were punctuation marks in romantic moments. I paused outside the house and looked at the birds in the eves and fought the urge to stay. Unsure of how Sam and my story were unfolding, he remained asleep during my departure and would wake to the noise of the animals outside his window. I was jealous of the pigeons’ ability to stay exactly where they were.
My hair was a bird’s nest bundle, with threads of cotton from an unraveled bedspread. The matte bunching stuck to the nape of my neck, still damp with motion. Rosy with small twinges of pain from tight shoes, my feet sounded like thunderstorms on the cracked cement sidewalk. When the sidewalk changed from cement to cobblestone, I stumbled and twisted my ankle.
Distracted with the light bulb flash of shadowed memories from the night before, more sensation than thought, I found a strand of hair stuck to the sweat of my inner thigh by the hem of my polka dot dress. The tender cooing of a white pigeon was a musical accompaniment as the bird bounced on its textured, twined feet uncomfortably close to where I was crouched.
I examined the black strand of hair as its owner illuminated in front of my eyes. The phantom feelings of lightning bolted through me as I tied the filament of his hair around my finger. This thin, delicate connection kept him and I entwined.
The pigeon continued hopping while I contemplated grabbing it and placing it in the nest of my knotted hair. I imagined wrapping the single black hair around its ankle and somehow sending whispered words to its owner. Saying all the things I wish I did in our own untamed moments together. Like how I wanted to stay in the seafoam bedroom forever, as we listened to the birds together in our nest. The dovecote ancestor and messenger, the pigeon, took off as I stood up straight. Maybe it was flying to the other side of the river. Maybe even back to Sam’s house, where it would wake up his still-sleeping body with the sound of its coos. All feral pigeons are breathing ancestors, bringing unspoken messages with them, tying our lives together. I watched the pigeon take flight and hoped that it would carry my words on its feathered back before I continued west.