Do you love any, do you love none
Do you love twenty, can you love one
Do you love…me?
A long time ago, it seems ages, I fell in love with a bird. He was a long, dark bird, with sun in his feathers and sleepy yellow eyes. He was very different from most birds his kind, and a non-native, a starling (Sturnus vulgaris).
We met one night near the train tracks. I sat alone, waiting for my ride, and he called to me from a power line, “you are so beautiful, may I nestle in your red locks?” I giggled and looked away, and when I looked back he had hopped to the top of a eucalyptus and flown away.
And so it went, these chance meetings, and he would only appear when I was alone. Sitting on a bench near the ferry terminal, he would fly down and peer at me from an empty chair; rattle, whirr, and whistle – fly a little farther away, and do it again.
For a while, starling and I only exchanged fleeting moments like this. One day he dropped a little bookmark at my feet. It looked like a gold paperclip with a small rose engraved at the top. He flew down next to me and watched my expression as I picked it up. I could smell his feathers from where he landed, the heat and the heart underneath them, and I was smitten.
Starlings are relatives of the Myna bird, and like them they have impressive vocal abilities and a gift for mimicry. He learned how to imitate the words “Habibi,” and “maybe,” but I think they might have been the same words, it just depended on which day he said them. I would hang on those words, and depending on which one I thought he said it could make or break me, until we met again.
When we weren’t together, starling would travel with a pack of grackles and blackbirds. I would hear from the house finch “yes, I saw him over on Chestnut, drinking from a gutter and whispering sweet nothings to another.” I did not flinch. I knew that starlings were known for their brood parasitism, and he was only looking for a new, temporary nest. But as I mentioned, he was different from the other starlings, he wasn’t so much interested in proliferation, but the addiction of connection.
Watch while the queen
In one false move
Turns herself into a pawn
Sleepy and shaken
And watching while the blurry night
Turns into a very clear dawn
As the days went on, we became closer and closer. He would abandon his main nest more often, and we would sit together, saying nothing, breathing each other in, learning the other’s own special language. Though he would go back to his home high above the hill the time we spent together was enough to sustain me. I would drive dreamily home, still smelling of the oil from his wings.
I am thinking of your woman
Who is crying in the hall
It’s like drinking gasoline
To quench a thirst
Until there’s nothing there left at all
Was not meant to be
No clean transition
Wish there was a better ending
The hottest love has the coldest end