by M.J. Swayer
The power of a kind action
|Angus shuffles his feet down the hall, onward to the Big Man's lair. He was tired of life piling up luggage on his back. A job he was about to lose, a debt that was getting bigger, and a mind he had yet to tame. Sooner or later he would crumble under the weight. Each passing day he could feel his strength dissipating. Now he was just a shallowed out shell of a man, too often feeling like a ghost in a world made of transparent objects.
Reaching the bosses' office, he knocks and enters. The moment he sits down, his attention goes elsewhere. Staring out the window, he watches the birds fly among the vastness of the blue sky. He was jealous of their freedom, but a little voice in the back of his head reminds him they were easily caged. That their wings could be effortlessly broken.
Angus walks down the hall, now carrying a box with all his belongings under one arm. Not one pair of eyes in the whole room lifts from their work. He continues unnoticed. The elevator music makes him remember how he enjoyed the ride up to the 60th floor, the only peaceful two minutes in his every day. He cherishes the music one last time before stepping out of its opening doors and walks out, now unemployed.
Threr blocks that takes him too long in the endless sea of moving bodies. It was lunch hour, people hurrying from one place to another hoping to catch a sliver of peace in their busy days. He finishes dodging the people, arriving at the parking garage. His small, grey Honda civic beeps noisily, chiming in with the surrounding cacophony of the city.
At home, Angus opens the fridge, fishing for ingredients to prepare a meal while simultaneously pushing back the screaming whispers that were telling him he had just lost his job. He turns the stove on and watches the butter melt on the pan. Angus shakes his head and turns the stove off, fighting back tears.
He sits on the couch and searches his little apartment for some sight of hope. He reaches for the remote, turns the tv on, then turns it off. It was all garbage anyways. He lays on the couch, thinking he should take a nap, but the loud music playing from three doors down says otherwise. Angus gives up and allows the tears to flow freely for a few minutes before he calms himself.
Deciding that fresh air would do some good, he prepares to go for a run in hopes of distracting his annoying thoughts. He changes from his suit into more comfortable-fitting clothes, checks that his face is dry in the mirror, and opens the door with a sigh and a forced smile. Almost everyone in the city walked around with fake smiles, he was only following the crowd pretending that nothing was out of the ordinary. Just another robot.
Five miles before Angus took a break to rest. Five miles before the world of skyscrapers and traffic was obscured by green. He sits and watches the few passersbys. Once again the birds pull at his attention. He watches and loathe them. He wanted their freedom, no matter how easily it could be taken from them. He was willing to live with that uncertainty. If only he could feel his spirits soar again.
Sitting on a bench that hurt his back, Angus watches the world go on without him. A few of his winged companions scatter the sidewalk. A flutter of wings everytime a pair of human legs passed by. A small child pulls at the hand of his mother and points at them. She ignores him and continues to talk to her phone. A policeman walks by, throws a few pieces of his lunch to the ground and doesn't look back. Before the birds can peck at their lunch, a biker scares them to the treetops. The cycle repeats itself several times before Angus snaps out of it.
Once his breaths falls below the beat of his heart, the pain in his gut intensifies. He holds his stomach, not as a product of his run but a product of his mistakes and the things he had no control over. His eyes misty, he becomes aware of the hundreds of people that could see his tears. He only thinks this for a second, noticing that like him, everyone else were entranced in whatever problems they carried. The next second Angus shakes with sobs, not caring who saw his pain.
In the middle of his emotional show, he catches a glance of a woman staring at him, sitting on a bench across the one he occupied. He quickly diverts his eyes and begins drying his tears. Before he knows it, a gentle hand touches his shoulder and he looks into a kind and genuine smile. She extends her hand, holding a white handkerchief and motions for him to use it. He obliges.
Ten minutes passed without a single word exchanged between Angus and the woman. She only sat there, her hands now holding his. It occurs to Angus to chalk the whole situation as a bit ridiculous and even absurd but there was a warmth radiating from the woman he could not deny. The silence was not awkward.To the contrary, it said so much more than words could have. Someone else cared, and to Angus that was enough for the moment.
Once he recollects himself, the woman simply gets up and begins her journey back. Upon reaching the bench, she reaches into her pockets and scatters seeds on the ground in front of her. A flock of birds immediately attack the ground as she watches.
Feeling much better, Angus gets up, and before continuing his run, now back home, glances back at the woman. They meet eyes and she smiles a goodbye before diverting her attention to the birds at her feet.
At home, Angus discovers a sticky note stuck to his back containing words that made his mind feel at ease.
"A bird grows wings only after jumping off its nest."