This is the last thing my mother gives to me before I leave. A bird, to be specific a pigeon, who was perched in a small, elegant but frightening cage. I ask her why but she nods her head and says “You will get to know if you look for it and understand.” I don’t argue with her or look for the meaning behind her little riddle. I just stick my lips and then put my head slightly to one side. I am way too exhausted now. Last week, had been the worst days of my life. I had cried all the days while I sniffed in the nights until my mother came and talked to me. Now I wanted to do nothing to make my little enthusiasm disappear. I am relaxed today and to some extent a little happy. I am going on a holiday with my cousins for camping for Christmas. My uncle blows the horn of the car standing near those huge black gates. The voice of the engine and the horn fills my eardrums and I wave one last goodbye to my mother who for the eighty-seventh time tells me to not be a fool and saunter around alone in the dark because according to her I a fifteen year old is in a constant threat of getting kidnapped during a simple holiday. I just affirm, “Okay” and walk towards the car, the little cage held firmly between my fingers.
As I seat myself between Billy and Lilly, Billy forcefully taps my shoulder, “ Took you an eternity.” I just smile and then give a small high five to the little ten year old Lily. I relax my shoulder rubbing it slowly and cramp my legs in that little space but I make sure I don’t loosen my grip on the cage because I know, and I am sure it will break into millions of tiny pieces, a risk which I cannot take. Billy looks slightly at the bird and then raises his eyebrow asking “why?”
I just lift my shoulders, “My mom” and then look through the foggy window as two little children run across my side of the car laughing and stretching each other’s scarfs in amusement. I smile at it too. Lily just pokes her hand in the cage and laughs at the little bird as its head away from her fingers. She pats it and then gets too busy taking information about the trip and the camping place from Billy and her mother.
Not that bad to be out of it finally.
I take a long breath. I am happy, happy as I feel the familiar warmth of someone close to me, and the essence of Christmas. I reassure myself that this week is going to be better than the last one and then I join along with the song as Lily sways her head and pulls my hand singing Christmas carols and slowly tells me all the gifts she had asked Santa. I smile looking at Billy as he just shakes his head.
We are going to a place called Perkem Molly Land. I don’t go by the name for that is the least thing that bothers me right now. I am just looking for a good time for the next few days, a warmth of the bonfire with family which will temporarily if not permanently make me forget about my loss.
We finally reach there. It is a type of park which is made to make people feel the essence of camping especially people with small children who do not want things to be made uncomfortable and unsafe for them. I get down and look towards the bird. Its neck is beautiful while the blood red eyes are daunting but still timid. I look at Billy who is now waving at me, asking me to join him while Lily just holds Mrs. Wilson’s hands and is looking everywhere in awe. But as I step my way towards them, my misfortune again strikes me, and the situation plays a cruel joke on me. Mr. Wilson is talking to the instructor of the Molly Land. That instructor is a huge muscular man with amiable eyes and a cold deep voice. But I am not interested in him. I look at his hands holding the little red collar of a dog. A DOG. he has a beautiful black coat, deep brown eyes and I know how it would feel to touch him, as I remember how I used to pat my little Rookie. Its pink tongue is wagging and I can remember feeding my little dog and the way he used to lick my face in happiness. He is a Labrador and so was my Rookie. I lost Rookie 4 days ago to the rules of nature and this is the last thing I want to see. I do not want to sound harsh, but I do not want to remember him, I do not want to feel the nostalgia, because it is painful and heartbreaking. I do not want to even think about my baby because I cannot without tearing up and locking myself in the washroom crying sitting on those cold mosaic tiles. I cannot stand it. Tears have already started to well up in my eyes and I can feel my hand heating up while my palms hurt as I dig them up deeper inside the bars of the cage. And then something shakes me. The little pigeon bites me. Yes bites me, and it is painful. A little blood has formed on my pinky and I have no idea why the bird is behaving so hysterically. It's now flapping its wings. I feel like shouting at my mom for giving me a creature I do not know what to do with. Is it hungry? I seriously do not know.
I just ignore it and then wiping my tears, sucking my pinky , I walk towards Billy who is grinning widely as he shows me that patch of the land where we will put up our tents. But nothing makes me smile. Enough, is enough. I lost my dog who was my everything , my exam results were horrible causing my dad to almost smack me and it was during this time that my best friend had to shift. I want to just scream and let everyone know about my state but instead I just give a small smile which I know is looking very crooked and ugly.
Billy asks me what happened but I just shake my head. It only took me one sight to make me remember all the pain again. The same pain I was trying to escape. I know he knows about Rookie but he does not know what I saw. I know he is feeling sorry for me and asking me my favourite colour for the tent to make me feel better, in a sense trying to make me forget my pain which only I know is not possible,
Nevertheless, the day goes as it should for everyone while I just keep on feeling the lump in my throat, shedding a few tears here and there while Lily asks me why my nose is red just like the colour of Santa’s hat. I just put a hand on her head and give a small smile, and in return she gives me a golden star and tells me to put it on the Christmas tree standing near her bright orange tent. I confirm that I will but I just toss it in my pocket as she goes scurrying away. Everyone are standing there and my jaw is now almost hurting because of giving forced smiles all the way around. I look at the bird near my and Billy’s tent. I had given it a few nuts an hour ago. I have no idea what to do with it, with a bird. If my mother had given me this to make up for Rookie then she should know that she got everything so wrong. But right now I do not specially call her to ask her to confirm my speculation.
As the bonfire is lit and I find myself seated near my cousins and aunt and uncle singing and looking at stars. Nothing helps me, but I laugh to pretend to be okay because no one can understand my pain. When it is time to sleep I just quietly walk towards my tent and sleep on the hay mattresses. Today’s day was a waste and I am now tearing up. Billy comes and lies beside me. He finally understands and none of his sweet words can make me feel happy so he just says , “ Good night” and doses of. But now I cry silently. Warm hot tears flowing through my rheumy eyes getting soaked up in the piles of twigs and some back inside my skin. I am sniffing profusely and then I look at the little pigeon looking outside the tent, concentrating his gaze strongly.
I know I cannot sleep and anyway I am now desperately looking something to take my mind off everything so I just walk towards the cage and look at its eyes. It is looking at this one bright spot of white light flashing on the tent. The moonlight. I look at it intently and then I can understand what it is yearning for. To be free, just like me from all the captives of sadness and depression and in his case for it: the solid black bars. I look towards him and then I make up my mind. I pick it up and take it outside and sit on the cold grass and then slowly hesitantly open the cage. I know, it is painful to be confined. Rookie never like to be tied and this is the least I can do. So, I slide the door of the cage and then try to fly it outside. I do not know if it is dangerous for it to go alone after so much time of being secure in a small place, but I know it is yearning for it, I have to.
But the bird does not move, I do not blame it. It obviously cannot believe that now freedom is knocking on its face. I try to rest it up on my fingers. It looks at my hand brightly trying to believe that everything is real. He tried to move, he almost touches my fingers and then stops. I look at it confusedly. I don’t know what happened and why he had stopped. I look at it trying to figure out what happened and then to my surprise I saw a very thin rope tied on its claws hanging from one of the bars. I sight, so this was the reason. I snap the thin rope within seconds and then the little bird comes to my fingers, places his beak on my forehead as if trying to kiss me and then hesitantly flies trying to touch the moon. I smile and then I realize the truth.
The actual bird who is tied is me. And the rope is my problem tied tightly in my own mind. I am the only one who can cut, I am the only one who can make a move and try to help myself, I have to do it or I will always remain confined in my cage, in my little bubble which is open but I if I tie myself then how much strong my wings are it will not matter because I wouldn't be able to soar anyways.
I whisper a silent prayer in my heart and then take out the shiny golden star from my pocket. I walked towards the little Christmas tree and then place it on top of it. I smile. I can again feel the aura of Christmas around me. I walk towards my tent again and see Billy standing shivering in the cold telling me wide eyed that my bird escaped and I just look at him and say, “It is where it should be up in the stars free from captivity" just like my mind as I think of Rookie smiling towards me from the heaven and ideas pop in my mind for a gift to Neera ( my best friend) and a determination to work hard next time for the finals. I will beak the rope and sore towards the moon. I have to because there is no option when the answer is freedom.