This piece is about having what you want and wanting what you don’t have and not having what you don’t want but wanting to have what you don’t need. It is told from the perspective of a bird, probably a middle-aged pigeon.
The worst day in a bird’s life is the day we discover what hands are. I remember flying over a pier, one of those summer days in California that makes you wish you were dead it’s so beautiful, and I looked down and saw this little girl. She’s walking with her father. Then I see this blot of neon color near her mouth. She licks it and licks it and smiles.
Now, obviously, I know what ice cream is. I fucking love ice cream. But until that moment it had never occurred to me how humans get ice cream into their mouths. There they were: hands. Suddenly they were everywhere, in pockets, in the air, waving, clapping, slapping. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. How had I not noticed his?
It was so upsetting. I took a shit on the girl’s head.
I flew by The Dime and drank beer out of the bottles in the dumpster until I got good and toasted, and then I went home.
My wife asked me what’s wrong. I said, “Do you love me?” She said, Of Course. “Why?” She asked. “Do you know what hands are?” “Yes,” she said. I said, “I learned what they are today. And I’m mortified I’d never noticed them before. If I can overlook hands what else am I overlooking?”
But that was only part of the problem. I finally got around to telling her my actual ordeal. I told her how badly I wanted hands, and how humans don’t even appreciate them. Hands are wasted on hominids.
“I want hands,” I said. “I would die just to know what it’s like to pick up an ice cream cone. It’s not fair,” I said. “We’ve got these stupid useless wings that can’t pick up anything, while they get hands and thumbs and they can hold each other and hit each other and flip each other off.”
She looked at me, still, quiet. “Yes,” she said. “But they can’t fly.”
Well, I understood something that day. I’m not sure what it was that I understood. But I still feel I understand it. That wife of mine was a genius, always giving me these gems. I left her. She was also a cheating whore. But she was wise. I miss her, I think. I still see her sometimes on the billboard at Sunset and La Cienega. We don’t wave to each other. But I flap a wing at her. And she flaps back.
Written around 8:00 in the evening, on my cellphone, in the computer commons at Powell library, at UCLA, while suffering ear exhaustion from having wireless headphones pump music into my ears all day.