a bird in her chest

Short Stories / Sunday, May 6th, 2018

Strong was never a word she thought of when people asked her to describe herself. Or rather; she did think of it for a fleeting second but dismissed it decidedly as fanciful thinking. She wasn’t a woman of wrong modesty, she knew her worth and her good traits. She knew that she knew how to raise children into decent human-beings because she had done it three times, she knew that she knew how to do polite small-talk with neighbours over the fence on sunny Saturdays without letting on that all she really wanted to do was lie in the shade in silence, she knew that she knew how to love, but more importantly, be loved by someone else. When she was a little girl, she’d always selfishly assumed it would be hard to love someone for the rest of her life. She could never imagine that she’d find someone she’d like so much that she wanted to spend all eternity with him. But when she’d married Tom and seen him grow and seen him through promotions and summer holidays in France and bringing the boys to soccer and watching Lina’s flute concert, she just kept on loving him.

The thing that bothered her, though, was that for the rest of her life, no one else would love her. No one else would bring her flowers, no one else would call her beautiful, no one else would want to take her to the cinema so desperately he’d beg his father for the car keys on Friday nights. All the love she would ever receive was from this man, her husband, whom she loved dearly but…

But still, whom she was not perfectly happy with and somehow, she’d always known.

About the happiness.

That there was a little bird inside of her chest, just beneath her collar bone, wedged in between the two chambers of her heart, who sang to her at night, when she was lying next to Tom or in the day when she was preparing lunch for the kids. She knew, just as she knew the back of her hand, that she should be content but she also knew that she wasn’t.

It wasn’t that she was unhappy, either. There was just a general air of dissatisfaction with the particular life she’d nestled herself into, in that particular street they’d decided to root their family in, in that particular city they’d moved to out of the simple reason that it was close to her husband’s work. No talk of where the most exciting plays would premier, or where the fanciest restaurants would open – no such considerations. Just where it would be most convenient to live.

And she realized that that was probably the word she despised the most; convenience. Everyone seemed to associate it with positive things but to her it was one of the worst words she’d ever heard. It meant you’d settled into a routine, you did something just because it was the easy thing to do, not because it was the best thing, the most exciting thing to do. The easiest way out of a situation; that’s convenience. And she suspected that the route she went down when she said yes and decided for convenience was the cause for her lack of contentment.

Of course she would never mention any of these thought to Tom, she loved him dearly after all. But she knew that if she’d had a chance to do it all over again, she would choose differently. She knew she loved her children and she knew she loved them well, but she knew she’d choose differently. She’d carve out a life for her own, on her own, where she could be anyone she wished to be. Instead of marrying her high school sweetheart like everyone expected her to (most of all her parents) she would dash off after graduation just like the bird in her chest sang it to her. Perhaps he’d sing of Paris and on a whim she’d take the next overnight train there, or he’d sing of Mozambique and she’d fly to Africa without a second thought. It wouldn’t matter that she doesn’t have any money because if you don’t expect much you can’t really lose in life, can you? She’d take up work wherever she could find it and she’d sing with whomever she could find and she’d dance in the streets barefooted when dusk would sweep the dirt of the day from the curbs. She’d take lovers and smoke cigarettes with them out of open windows, out into the street and she’d make friends in art galleries or in a boat along a noiseless river. She’d have croissants for dinner and only black coffee for breakfast, she’d have everything at once and then live in poverty for a month until she had enough to spend it all at once again. She’d wear rags and feathers and they would crown her queen of the world instead of lady of the house, she’d walk along the river banks with a bottle of gin in her hands and another person’s heart on the tip of her tongue, she’d whirl and dance and scream and be and kick and live and shout and leap and oh – she would just exist in a world that would never be big enough to contain everything that she could ever dream up for herself. She would jump from place to place and when she would be tired she’d rest her head on a wreath of laurels that she’d make for herself instead of expecting it to be given to her by someone else.

She’d live.



“Mo-om, we’re home”, her son screams from the door.

“I’m coming”, she cries and rushes downstairs to take the sizzling pan from the stove and scrap the burnt steaks into the bin.

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