Within days of picking up that object of bittersweet memory, I began writing music; and nearly every night a different song. I have long easily gone six months to a year without mentionable human contact, so I didn’t have much beside time, quickly discovering how to play and exhausting a hundred songs and melodies, a thousand hours, and a million words. But it didn’t reach beyond the thick glass about me;
because just like words, music has its limitations and I had found them some time ago. Nothing any longer seemed to be consuming enough to continue to temporarily drown out the pain in my bones or the undeniable, urgent alarm in my mind that something was direly wrong and required immediate fixing before I could be permitted even a fleeting moment of physical or emotional respite; tone it down and I could almost relate it to as an insatiably hunger, thirst, or continually crying child that eventually drove you mad.
Yet I still did it; I still played and I still attempted to transfer myself, to seek distraction from what I was convinced was soon to burn its way from the inside out of me for everyone to see and misunderstand. But it never did; it had kept me perpetually on the precipice of a threatening fragmentation from reality that never quite showed enough to mean anything. But maybe that was a good thing. And so I played the melody that I could hear running though my head and attempted to dampen my awareness of the spinning and every other thing in the world but the sound of words that would never be heard.
There was a sycamore tree that just barely reached out over the top of the cage- The only part you could see out of- and a large murder of crows had gathered in its boughs. One crow in particular had perched itself on a bar nearly just above my head, and was cawing as though a cat had it by the mouth, very clearly staring back down at me. I attempted to resume playing but each time the crow immediately began to call again.
I instantly heard an inaudible voice in my head that said I was the Calling Crow. Thankfully I’ve never been one to experience auditory hallucinations, but if I had to specify some of the many uncannily sudden and intrusive “voices”- this was one of them. Given the circumstances and my manner of appearance, It seemed a more appropriate pen name. So I did; should I ever again find a spark of passion in this incrementally expiring life.
The crow finally let me finish the song I was playing, and I looked up to see a hummingbird sitting only a foot away from the crow, on the same bar. And for the next few months, everytime I came out onto the patio -there they would be; or sometimes outside the dreary window of my room or any other room I had been condemned to for “disciplinary consequences”.
“Beautiful…” The old lady looked up, dragging out each syllable.
“I could listen aaall day…” she spoke with a broken Southern accent,
“Are there words?”
“No, I’ve already wasted enough words with other songs,” I replied.
“You should use them words; swear to God you won’t run out. Sing me one?”
“I’m good,” feeling suddenly a bit embarrassed; I realized I’d never actually sung in front of anyone before; I wasn’t shy, I simply had always been by myself. “they’re all really depressing anyways,” I concluded.
Her gaze again sank to the ground and she mumbled something I didn’t catch.
“tsk tsk… So fraid of the truth that you won’t tell the whole story… Why don’t you a least try writin it down? We’re all sayin the same things, just in different ways.”
My mind interjected to disagree. I held my tongue.
“I see you each day and I seen it…But we all gotta make our choices. We can hide who we really are, but no matter what ya do…at the end- and believe me honey- everyone will either love you or leave you. We all gonna make our choices.. ” she repeated. “I bet nobody ever told that caged bird what kinda song to sing, No sir…” she glanced up, “and I think you got your bird… Write it for *you*. Cuz you gotta see it. You gotta see the story. ”
And little else ever made as much sense to me as that.
And so I did. Or I would. Or I tried.
I never again heard her speak lucidly after that, but would often sit and listen to her ramble on endlessly, so sad and passionate about something I never would understand.
“You know, I think I know where I can get you that Pepsi…” I was being called in, there was a call on the payphone for me.