Mirror in the Well
The girl in this story is not a girl, for she is now forty years old, and a mother of two children and becoming a divorcée and she works in a business, wears suits and tight shirts which she pays extra money to clean at the specialty dry cleaning stores; she pays bills and mortgages and takes her children to their lessons for improvement and cooks them dinners and organizes closets and drawers, discards rubbish and used-up items. The girl looks up from where she is seated on the sofa of her home, and there appear to be hundreds of small grey birds who settle into the bushes and then dash out for no reason she can ascertain, settle and dash, rush out and make a V in flight and return, the nexus disassembles and the flock explodes into the bush amidst wild cries and flight again and crash again into the brush and singing loudly. And this is not a usual home for the flock; she sees birds daily—the robins and blue jays and loud crows, the fast-green hummingbirds and the great blue heron which flies each morning over her home toward the state park and each evening back toward his home by the sea. But not these. And she then imagines that she sees the flock today because today she is feeling forlorn and abandoned, like a small girl, and doubting and the birds are on a long journey, the journey perhaps of their southern flight for the winter and she also would like to travel, would like some kind of flight, would like an outside of her ideas, the labyrinth of codes and conduct which keeps her close, inside of a closed circuit, and it is only her lover, this carpenter in a California city, who has undone the tight bands, who has leaked her soul out onto air again, like the small pockets of air beneath the bird-grey wings and lifting them, today, outside of the girl’s window and into the sky.
She has driven across the empty fields and drying grasses to see you; the warm-gold light on the dried earth, the reds behind her in the reflection on the rearview mirror, the speeding hulls of cars. She is afraid now that her children and husband are not at home (the husband calls her on the telephone to schedule appointments the children’s doctor’s school and hair; he is living in a rented house in the adjacent town) and your wife and children have left for the weekend and so they will have this time together today, you tell her, come and visit me, and the girl runs out of her home, turns on the lights and water taps excused and begins the drive, a drive which is like a calling, to lie in your arms to feel again this ineffable un- moment, to listen to this sea like a flock of birds startled out of the bush, and after the dinner at the restaurant with you, and after the banal details of daily living have been exchanged, then they are naked again and his mouth is again against her sex and she is happy and all of her doubt and despair fall out through the pores of her skin like the birds rushed from the copse adjacent to her garden at dusk yesterday. Which family of bird were they? Her son will say that they are not robins, for the robin has an orange-red chest and yellowed bill and she wonders where he learnt of robins and why it is that she cannot name this type of bird, she has searched her consciousness for it as she does for the word which she cannot say to anyone as to why it is that she has flown outside of her marriage and taken the sacrifice of marriage and family and the neighbors’ sour and pitiable looks when she tells them that her husband has left her and leaving the man who loves her, who has cared for her and the father of her children and to whom she made a vow, betrays him first in the motel on L Street and then weekly for twelve months until he one day out of the blue, like a flock of small grey birds surprising her and rushing out from the copse, asks her if she is having an affair and she does not admit to him that she loves this other and strange working man in another southern city, the man who puts his mouth to her cunt, the man for whom the birds rush out inside of her, and not for him either has she done it—she suffers like a small child when she is alone now in her home—but to return again and again to the unmomented moment when the yellow billed not-robins, time and outness which is inness, rush out, as if the world and all of her life were limitless and love a tangible flight outside of words and outside of her life as she knew it before: the appointments the rules the limits and doors which opened, like her cunt, only partially and shyly, like adolescent girls with their tight and scared sexual mouths: she needed to live, and she hadn’t known until the man with his mouth on her sexual mouth, that she hadn’t, that she wasn’t, that fucking is aliveness for her, like flight is for the grey birds—she tells the husband a yes, that she has fucked another man.