“Look out the window, dear, at the last leaf on the wall. Didn’t you wonder why it never moved when the wind was blowing? Oh, my dear, it is Behrmann’s great masterpiece- he painted it there the night that last leaf fell.”
Amber ran her fingers through the last lines before closing the book. She looked out through the crystal covered window that barred the sound of winter. She felt that she heard the soft whispering of snowfall. She heaved a deep sigh and looked at her fractured leg. It had been almost two weeks in bed and that was the third time she read The Last Leaf. Winter had set in her icy numbness on every tree and it was Christmas time.
She turned her head and peered at Cymbal, the caged magnificence resting peacefully beside the wall adjacent to the bookshelf. She adored the reddish brown beak that pecked the yellow fluffy feathers that spread across the cage like a warm quilt. Amber wondered whether it was some kind of peacock when the bluish green neck stretched out to peer back at her.
Two caged birds in a room. One could speak and the other could not. What am I to do with this creature doubly confined? My initial happiness in receiving this special gift has now waned. It is my new friend since the day before yesterday. Aunt Kate gifted this to cheer me up. We tried feeding it with all sorts of grain and bird feed but in vain. My brother tried giving it some water. The water got spilled all over as the bird tried to dip its wings in it. It hasn’t had anything since the time it reached our home. But it looks healthy and we have not heard it make any kind of sound. I feel that it sometimes grins and mocks at me. My doc has assured me that I’ll be fine by next week. Shall wait until then.
Amber put her pen down and looked out through the window. Amber, she smelled of fresh earth, first rain and first snow. She was sometimes like the soft wind and sometimes whirled like wild hurricane. She gleamed like frozen diamond on the edges of grass and burned like golden embers. She had never imagined a world of confinement.
She pressed her ears hard against the cold window glass. She could hear the sounds outside. Sound of people cheering and children playing happily. “Had I been careful!” she thought. She tumbled down the staircase and fractured her left leg. She was stepping down the stairs cruising around Facebook posts when she heard the loud emotional, spiritual voice of her aunt downstairs. This time her aunt lectured about the necessity to turn towards the light of the Great Spirit by deconstructing their existing beliefs. She spoke about how awareness and deep inquiry could illuminate life and eliminate existing sorrows. Amber was only aware of Derrida’s Deconstruction and her brain could comprehend nothing beyond that. Always this happens to her. She would be caught unawares and would be forced to listen to endless lectures. This time she tried to play smart and she landed with a Thud! Two days in hospital bed and the remaining in her room.
It is not easy to lay in bed for days together always dependent on someone for every single need. She remembered how she used to fake fever when she was at school and how desperately she wished to fall sick. She filled her heart with heavy platters of thoughts day after day and gradually began to fall into the abyss of hopelessness. She had fantasized eating bags of chips, drinking cans of coke and lay endlessly in the comfort of her bed browsing through her mobile. As days passed by she began to abhor everything. The only thing she felt relieved was that she was no more crushed under the weight of the corona virus stats discussions.
She dreamt that she danced around the Christmas tree and relished the soups, sides and entrees. She wished she could walk around the birch trees and sing Christmas carols. She was so done with being alone that she sometimes spoke to the lone listener in her room. On some days she spoke endlessly about her friends and on some days about baking cakes while she felt that Cymbal listened in rapt attention. “You are trapped like me Cymbal. Don’t you wish to soar high and touch the skies?” sometimes she asked.
We stared at each other for a while. A thought struck me and I took The Great Poems, turned to page 211, and began to read aloud,
“My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
… :- Do I wake or sleep?”
I turned aside and was it sleeping? Ah, it might be like my brother then. May be I should try leaving it in his room for a day or two. May be it might respond to numbers, algorithms and chemical formulae. What would Keats have written had he such a bird? So, tomorrow may be I shall try reading The Raven.
Amber counted the nanoseconds and milliseconds. The next day was 23rd and she expected a few friends and relatives. Gradually she fell asleep. She was woken up from her sleep by a sudden sound which she felt like a C- sharp major. She dismissed it to be a dream and checked the time: 3:00 a.m. Through the dim streak of light she saw Cymbal moving in its cage. “Was it Cymbal?” she let out a shrill cry. She hopped to the piano that stood in the corner near the window. She turned it on and ran her fingers through the keys. She felt a kind of joy engulf her. Her fingers made a strange dance as she played For All Seasons. She held the keys as if in an embrace and when she was about to head back to her bed, she felt she heard the same sound. It was Cymbal. Amber was speechless and she sat down to play another and another and another. It was 5:00 a.m. She felt tired and soon fell asleep.
Today is a day to celebrate as I am now fully healed. I can walk around slowly with no one to lean on. I walked around the lawn, went down the cellar, walked through every nook and corner. I then walked to my room upstairs. Cymbal was asleep. I sat at the piano and started playing All of me. A sudden flutter of wings spread wide, shimmering yellow and burnt umber. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. I strutted to the cage and opened it. I felt that its beady red eyes thanked me. Out it flew flapping its bright wings. I left the huge windows open and saw it glide out to a distance into the cold sky. I watched until the speck disappeared.
Love can never be captured. When we all share the same world, why do we ever think of confining such creatures, mute and helpless? Freedom is the greatest gift. This is the best sacrifice I've ever made and I've done it with love.
Tomorrow is Christmas and it’s the time to be together, have fun and bask in happiness and love with hot chocolate, melted marshmallows and freshly baked cookies.