Monday, July 2, 2012

Counting Crows

Today was a rather ordinary day for me. Well, it was up until I parked my bike to go to Wagashi (Japanese confectionery) class.

The story I'm about to write is rather emotional, and I've felt restless ever since this happened. I'm not sure how well I can write, as it's close to two in the morning, I'm very tired, and the thoughts are jumbled like wadded tissues between my ears.

It was a little after 4 p.m., and I walked my bike up to a local shrine gate. On the ground before me, I saw a crow, spread out on the ground as if someone had smashed it with a bat, and I inhaled sharply. It looked like a fluff of feathers, and the bugs were already taking over the poor, lifeless body.

An old woman sat in the shade, and watched my reaction to this bird. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her grin as I jumped when the bird moved. My stomach churned and I remember, for the first time in my life, wanting a gun.

The woman hobbled to me and started speaking in a dialect too heavy for me to understand. I told her that I felt so bad for the bird, and that it was in pain. The bird kept flapping its wings, unable to gain flight due to the broken lower half of its body. In the near distance, its friends cawed for their lost comrade.

To ensure that I understood her, or perhaps to make me feel better (although, if that's the case, I don't understand her methods), the woman poked her cane into the ground in front of the bird. It opened its beak, and instead of a caw, I could hear the screaming of its broken body as it tried to fly away from the woman.

Suddenly I heard the voice of my dad and boyfriend simultaneously. Then my mother. All of them telling me something along the lines of: Sometimes you have to hurt something to save it.

The image of that bird struggling to breathe still makes me shake. I felt so helpless. I wanted so badly the knowledge of how to kill a creature in one blow. I thought, "How can I use my bike, that rock, anything, to get this bird to stop suffering?" The old woman, on the other hand, was perhaps amused that a foreigner was getting so emotional over a common crow.

Suddenly, as if to protect their dying friend, two large crows began to swoop towards the old woman. I told her that I would run to the police station, and ask if there was anything they could do to help the bird.

I arrived at the station a few moments later and struggled to remember my Japanese. I kept saying things that translate roughly int, "I want it to be killed," and "It looks so pathetic, painful," and what hurt me the worst, "bird friends are telling us it is bad to be near the broken bird." Still feeling helpless, and feeling like minutes are hours as the woman finally understands how important this is to me.

Within a few minutes, the woman's apathetic stare turned into one of pity as I began to cry. In the beginning, I was told that there was nothing they could do. It wasn't a pet. It was a common crow. She told me to go to a different department, her words, I didn't understand. Suddenly, a male policeman came over and told me that the zoo had informed them they would see what they could do to help the bird.

After this came another eternity of waiting, my broken conversations with random police officers, and finally, the journey over to the shrine. While the old woman had told me she would wait, she and the crow's friends, had disappeared. The crow was lifeless on the ground.

I could hear the policeman mutter under their breath, questioning whether the bird was alive when I saw the flies on its back jump.

The bird was breathing.

They told me that from there, they would transport the bird to the zoo, although they said, unfortunately, the bird would probably die before getting there. I was crying. I was so glad they listened to me even though it felt like such a small thing. Whether the bird lived or died, I felt as though it were being relieved of torture.

After the police left, I stared at the shrine gate. I began to wonder if that old woman were ever there at all. What if she were some form of a god?

The whole scene felt very spiritual to me. I don't know much about the Christian religion, much less the different sects of Buddhism or Shinto-Buddhism. However, I thought I had heard of a similar situation in some story from long ago.

I wondered if I had been tested. had the woman been waiting all day, like the crow, for some person to take the time to help them, despite the inevitable death? Did the crows leave because they were chased away, or was it some sort of sign that time was running out?

I walked through the shrine gate and continued to cry. Pigeons cooed for mates at my feet and I remembered screaming with my boyfriend over our baby bird, the formula getting cold, and him ultimately saying, "If you don't feed it, it'll die!"

I suddenly understood his way of thinking, and dragged my feet to class.

I don't know what happened to the bird, and I have a feeling the police would tell me not to worry if I went back. In any case, wherever the bird is now, I hope that he is out of the tremendous pain he must have felt earlier.

I hope that no one goes without a friend in their last moment.

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