An Owl and an Ingrate

The sex had to be quiet since we were staying with her family at their summer home in Vermont. Her brother always had something to prove, although he was already the golden child. A high-paying building management job awaited his return at a high-rise residential building near Columbus Circle. I was still on the unemployment list counting down my remaining weeks of insurance benefits. When he invited me on a night hike through a local nature preserve I had to accept. If you sleep with a man's sister that shamelessly you have to accept his challenge.

I wish I could lie to you about the moon, but there was none. It was there. It just wasn't visible. The darkness was a safe place to wear hard thoughts on my face. I wondered if she'd told him about how neither of us had cried after her appointment on Bleecker Street. I'd say "our appointment", but it was hers and hers alone. They save the inclusive phrases for happiness:  "We're pregnant"; "We're buying a house"; "We're in love." Suffering is solitary, unless one is being dragged through the forest by an over-zealous brother of a stubborn lover. A branch he didn't hold swung back and caught my forehead. The awakening was appreciated. That mental subway ride back to her apartment was worse than the current trail under foot.

I'm not sure who saw it first, but both of us heard the rush of wind and ducked simultaneously. An owl with a wingspan double the width of my outstretched arms swooped down at us--directly in our path--veering up inches before contact. Its talons could have flayed us had we made better victims. The night was owned by predators more savvy than ourselves. We shared some laughs and expletives. Our ride home was in silence. I was glad he didn't bring up Bleecker Street.

A few months later he flattened his face at a friend's house party in Boston. Cocaine and vodka convinced him of his immortality. He ventured from a balcony out onto a limb. The tree gave way underneath his slender frame. His fall was broken three storeys down behind a brownstone. The family rallied and made the trek to Beantown. His sister took it the hardest despite their sibling rivalry; or maybe she made those scenes to win back some attention. Regardless, I hated those weekends in Massachusetts hotels and that stinking waiting room. I hated the way she'd fly off the the cuff more easily due to the emotional cocktail mixed within her fragile system. I hated the tubes that ran in and out of him, holding the hero intact.

And I hate that owl, six years hence, for keeping its claws from our necks.

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