The city was an animal. Sometimes it was trapped, retreating. Sometimes it bounded forward tearing your heart out.
Cadence was alone. She was like rain falling where it wanted.
Whither and hither.
Even the shadows clawing their way up the sides of buildings unfolded before her.
That’s what happened amidst concrete and steel.
You became a compact unit.
Self-contained as glass.
She thought she was fine, enjoying the meld of days and nights, liking the opening and closing of doors, until that one day when the tree came.
There it was one morning. Pushing up through her concrete balcony. How could anything grow out of no earth two floors up?
It seemed impossible but there it was, curling its way up towards the sun and sky. Bold.
The tree grew, hungry for air and light, filling her rooms with green leaves and the scent of promise.
Then the birds came, flitting, dancing, hiding. They filled the grey world with song and movement.
Cadence left out food for them. The cleanest water. She tended the ones who stumbled in the shadows, who lost their way due to youth and enthusiasm.
She fell in love. She hadn’t realised how much she had needed the birds until they came. She hadn’t known she was almost gutted by the demands of the cold, old city.
Her heart became greedy, selfish. She threw a net around the tree so the birds couldn’t escape. So they would always be hers.
The birds looked at her. Day after day with drooped wings and songs that could not be sung in a cage.
What do you want from me? Cadence asked.
Can’t you see you are all I have?
The birds regarded her, their gaze unbending as the sky lapped behind them like waves.
Cadence missed their songs, their joy, their wildness tilted at the sun.
She had to let them go.
She cut at the net with garden shears. It split like muslin. The birds gathered, intent, their wings coated with blue sky. They quivered and were gone.
Cadence was not sure they would return. How could they turn their backs on the glittering blue? How could they trust her again?
She cried for them, she mourned.
But in the end she knew defending herself with her former solitude was not enough of an excuse to hold them.
It was the way of things after all. A creature of the air must always be so.
Soaring lightly. Always able to fly and be free.
* This story is dedicated to two little pigeons I rescued. Both were babies when I found them. Julian was released this week and is happily flying with the flock. Sadly, Little Bubby, the weaker of the two, didn’t make it and died last night. It was a pleasure to have them in my care. If only for a moment.
Fly and be free, little ones.