Several days it had taken her to gather the resolve to sit where she now sat. The coffee cup, pen, and little notebook in front of her felt forced into place, sad and unnatural, the way she so often felt her life had become. She collected herself and started scribbling, dutifully and diligently, until her surroundings receded into the corners of her awareness.

The presence of the people sitting so close to her began to lose its disquieting power, as she leapt into the blank spaces, forcing herself into her pen tip, redirecting those energies across the page and stilling some especially violent heart tremors. “Convert emotions into words… feelings into symbols.” The advice resounded in her head. “Objectivize the subjective… analyze it to understand.”

So she recorded the torments of her inner life as they presented themselves. Words were striped out that did not, on second thought, reflect experience accurately. In the process some feelings were unexpectedly aggravated, moving her near tears, while others that might have shaken her were pacified before finding expression.

She shied away from pure, unguarded self-honesty, leaving for later the thicker branches overhanging the streams of her consciousness. After another lengthy paragraph, and with a warm feeling of satisfaction, she looked up to refresh her attention and review what she had so far written.

Although the act of writing had taken her thoughts away from the others, she felt her heart beat feverishly in her chest. In the hope that a soft blue sky would calm her, she let her eyes wander toward the window. A sparrow fluttered about and landed on the outstretched arm of a beech tree. The sparrow shook its wings joyfully under the midday sun. A beautiful day, a lovely view, and yet from her body the uneven breaths poured forth in quick succession.

Tree sparrow, Passer montanus, single bird on branch, Warwickshire, April 2012

Despondency seized her by the throat. The sun, the world, and life itself had lost its luster. She had not the wings of a sparrow, but if she did, they could only flourish in stale air. Then she might as well let them grow limp from inactivity. Nothing had changed.

She returned to her notebook, but the idea of writing now repelled her. What was profound before was rendered meaningless by the very feelings she attempted to describe. She was about to rise and leave, to escape the situation – herself – as had become her wont, when her eyes fell upon a man.

She had not noticed him earlier. With a flush she realized that her melancholy stare out the window had fallen right above his head. But the man was reading with a look of great concentration, and appeared oblivious to everything but the scenery of his own mind. A half-smile flitted on his lips that approved of the world even in his absence. She remember that she was set to leave, but could not avert her eyes. The man’s face was a pure image of peace. It showed such gentle affection for the book in front of him, that she could not help but imagine herself as the object of his gaze. She blushed, but her eyes yet stayed with him.

His long, black eyelashes seemed the appointed protectors of his delicate eyes, and to shield them from whatever evil may come their way. She could not but wonder at the vast world that must be endlessly spinning behind that quiet, lovely face, and as she gazed she felt her heart hush and her breaths align.

She was overcome by the sensation, not so much as the thought, that he should embrace her and in this way put out the fire that had so burnt and tormented her soul, leaving to smolder only the coals of goodness, love, and happiness. Instinctively, she knew he would understand her, simply and to the core, he alone in the world, he who could grasp the significance of anything on which he rested his eyes.

That, first and foremost, was what she sought. To hell with the pen! Down a cliff with the notebook! Let me remain in his presence and my sorry heart will restore its beat, and I will breathe. Oh, how I will breathe.

For a moment these ideas filled her mind, but it was not long before they stung her with their baseness. How could she bring her crumbling mess before immaculate eyes? Would not the sight of her all but dull and diminish them beyond recognition? No, never would she allow this to happen.

Clutching her notebook and pen, she left. The sparrow was still sitting on its branch, picking at its wings.