She, Not I

By R. C. Barajas

My eyes have grown used to the semi-dark. I listen for the sound of his footfall all day, hoping to be brought up into the light. But too often it is She who comes, She with her voice so loud it hurts my ears, her cheer so blinding I want to smother her with her own jocularity. In my loneliness, though, I sometimes speak to her, just to hear a voice—if I’m in the mood. “In a mood!” She sometimes complains to him when he comes home. May She die a thousand deaths upon the sword of her own making! Because once it was just he and I. Oh, those days! We two gazing at the sunset over the sea, I upon his right hand, a drink in his other, I stealing sly sips and laughing. Then She came and all changed. 

Early on, I made efforts to be nice. He who loved me, who’d held me to him for all our lives together, acted as any idiotic besotted man. He left me alone, and worse, foisted me off on others, as though I was property to be shared. Is it any wonder that I became embittered? I’m not ashamed to admit that one day I bit her. What choice did I have? She became wary of me after that, the only sign of intelligence I ever saw in her. She let me be, let me wait each day for the sound of his return, the smell of his beard, those strong shoulders, and welcoming hands. I am watchful. I am eager. I am rageful. How can he love us both? 

I take to my jail to wait and watch. I shriek my fury to the room where I spend my days, cornered—but hopeful! Yes, hopeful that even now, after all these years, he will hold me and know he was duped by She who chatters and strides about freely with nothing to bind her stupid, ugly terrestrial feet. She, who will never know true loyalty, who will never soar above the dull clotted ground. She, who came between us. She, not I.

Above me the door opens, and I see her framed against the light. With her naked elbow, she engages the switch that illuminates my room. I set the bars of my cage humming, drawing her down the stairs with small beats. Then I flex my wings, dander flying between cycles of my quickening breath as I scream, renting the stale air with my malice. Others, unused to such a sound, would cover their ears in terror. But She only tuts and says, “Oh Margarita, I see you there. How’s my pretty girl?”

I climb my ladder to wrap my talons around the cutting wire of my cage. I turn myself to stone. With her back to me, She busies herself at the washer machine. She is humming, then singing, as she pours out the suffocating detergent, her ludicrous hips swaying as she begins the cycle. But having the measure of her, I make myself enormous, the splendid green incandescence of my plumage is suddenly transcendent! It is blinding in its magnificence! I am terrible to behold! She turns and sees.

“Who’s a pretty girl, then? Would you like a peanut? Shall I get you one?”

Does my confinement make her complacent? I grow bigger still, shifting my weight from side to side with the grace of an egret, my eye locked on hers. 

She reaches into my food bag and, as though revealing a sacred treasure, draws out a peanut in its shell. I hiss with disdain, yet I cannot help but glance at the peanut. I crave peanuts. And I hate her for that.

“Are you a good girl? Are you a sweet girl? OK, here you go!” She slides the peanut between two bars of my cage. 

I am lithe. I am more beautiful than She. I am feathered and beaked and taloned. I, like fast daggers move. I am air-born and born of air. I am his first and greatest love! 

The peanut is mine, along with a slice of her pallid flesh. Wailing, She runs up the stairs and extinguishes the light. I am again left in semi-dark, the churning washer my only company, reminding me of waves and of salt air and of thee.

About the author

R. C. Barajas was born in Stanford, California. Her college years resembled a stone skipping across a pond. Her non-fiction has been published in The Washington Post Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Twins and Cleaver Magazines. Currently, she spends too much time in her darkroom. Her lens-based and pinhole photography has been exhibited and published in the U.S. and Canada. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband and two loopy dogs.

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