A bird took my eye. I was just sixteen and in love and content to simply stroll down the sidewalk with a soda pop in one hand and my girl’s in the other when the bird, spooked by a certain hawk or the exhaust of a passing bus or deranged in its own way, descended from the heavens and collided with my face, its beak bursting my retina, tearing through my iris, and devouring my cornea. The bird flew away, spectators said, unharmed. Satisfied, I imagined it was, full of me while I lay there on the ground, writhing, shouting for vengeance, for my girl to still go to the Homecoming dance with me despite my hideous appearance.
I think of that bird still today when I eat breakfast, drink my coffee, drive to work. I think of that bird when I make love, go for a jog, take a swim. I think of that bird every time I see my old flame at the Grab-N-Go Gas Mart on the corner, and make her give me change for things I don’t need: a Hershey bar, a bar of soap, a bag of skittles. I only ever carry a twenty. I think of a bird that is surely dead all these years later and its little bird children, dead now too, I suppose, if someone asks what I was like in high school. I spent my time in trees, on rooftops, and climbing telephone polls. I sat atop ladders, awnings, and rafters. Were you an acrobat, they ask, a thrill seeker? A bird watcher, I say.
And it’s a bird I’m watching this morning as I slink closer to the edge of the roof, the soft gravel taking the shape of my foot with every creeping step. A bird. The bird. Impossibly still alive. And there, in its hideous black beak, my eye! Somehow after a wife, two children, an affair, testicular cancer and surgery, two houses, a college degree, a bad traffic accident, and a bet on black that paid off in roulette, the bird persists. I have no choice but to kill the bird now and take back what’s mine. I snatch its wiry leg midflight, dragging it down from the sky, and throttle the thing between my knees. I push a long index finger into each side of its precious neck, waiting for its final flutter until at last my eye is my own again. I remove my patch and let sunlight wash into the dark hole of my face one final time. The Gas-N-Go for a tube of cherry chapstick—that’s where I’ll go first. I stand and plummet from the roof—a false step misjudged by a depth perception I have not known in decades. In the commotion, the lifeless bird falls too. And though dead, it is not without one last act of cruelty, crashing into my face once more, its dead beak gouging through and taking my other eye.
Max Andrew Dubinsky is the creator of the online graphic novel Dislocated. His work has also been featured on Chicago Public Radio as audio fiction, and on McSweeney's Internet Tendencies. He's the narrator and curator of the podcast The MAD Fictioncast, and his favorite animals are Godzilla, Bigfoot, and the giant squid. Follow him on twitter @maxdubinsky for more.