An icy, thorny wind rushed past the bleak wall against which a shivering pigeon was seeking shelter with all its might. The touch of its frayed wings, its beaten and brittle body, against the hard concrete offered little consolation against the frost. If anything the lifeless stone intensified the cold. But the pigeon – not unlike the people clinging desperately to a nearby tram stop – preferred that physical, if lifeless, touch over the paralyzing sensation of being surrounded by open space. In times of agony, animals prefer solidity over fluidity, no matter the form in which it is presented.
Only a set of rusty tram tracks separated the pigeon from the people at the stop. The squalid condition of the concrete, which must have been grey on the day of its inception but was now thoroughly smudged with black and brown patches, successfully hid the no less filthy bird; the pigeon may have been offered a thick pack of light grey feathers at birth, but across its lifespan it had acquired an impressive collection of irrevocable stains.
It is no surprise, therefore, that the pigeon, similar to the wall in life-force and color, with feet retracted under its body and head pushed back into its scruffy featherbed, attracted decidedly no human attention. This would have remained true if it weren’t for the arrival of a certain rebellious youth. Slanting his slender but thickly-clothed body against the tram stop, the youth initially failed to spot the bird as the intensity of his thought and the bitterness of the weather collaborated in weakening his senses.
You see, there exists an inverse relationship between attending to the reality that thought provides and experiencing the reality of the world. Most people, most of the time, wander somewhere in the middle of these extremes by observing the external world and their internal thought process at a similar level of intensity. Like good tightrope walkers, they remain firmly and triumphantly on their ropes. They look timidly down into the depths of their mind occasionally, and they refrain from falling. They look confidently up at the sky, and they know that there, falling is not a possibility. And they are glad to feel the rope under their feet. And they do not believe that some, like our rebellious youth, scorn the rope and live their life from fall to sky.
The pigeon managed at last to present itself to the youth, through no effort of its own. The wind simply shook a few of its feathers. The youth glanced at the group of people awaiting a tram.
“Look at you, you ill-fated bird, you’re dying all alone in the blistering cold while the other side of the tracks willfully ignores you. If only you were a neglected cat or a battered dog, then someone surely would have extended their warmth to you by now. Alas, you have not slept on our laps and you have not been our best friend. And yet the cold hurts you, as it hurts me, and you tremble as I tremble. But what can I do? What can anyone do for you? You simply weren’t made to be embraced…”
As if on purpose, the youth’s thoughts were interrupted by an approaching tram. He stepped inside, and soon forgot the pigeon. It wasn’t until later in the evening, nestled in bed among blankets and pillows, that the bird finally made its way back to him.
“You must be freezing to death by now, if you are not already gone.”
The pangs he felt in his heart accompanied the rhythm of his thought.
“The warmth of my home would have saved you. But how could I have taken you? And who could have expected that of me? Taking a pigeon home in order to save it from the cold? Has anyone heard of such a thing? It would have been ridiculous.”
These rationalizations relieved him only briefly from the twinges in his chest and stomach. He was resisting.
“Perhaps, perhaps it was enough that I saw you. I noticed you when no one else did.”
This consoled him for a moment, superficially.
“Maybe it is enough that I thought about you, and that my eyes burn and my chest becomes heavy as I think of you now.”
He was falling, and the pigeon was freezing.