When I woke up, I was a bird.
I pulled my beak out from under my wing and looked around, shaking my feathers loose and stretching my long neck.
Well THIS is a fine thing.
The last thing I remember was begging my husband to pull the ridiculous tube out of my throat. I couldn’t talk. I was telling him with my eyes, desperately willing him to understand, crying as he eased my wedding rings off of my fingers before they wheeled me away for surgery I did not want. I felt tears slide into my ears. I hurt. I was woozy. Who knows what drugs they had in me at that point. I didn’t want a bypass. What happened to consent?
Then they must have sedated me. Blackness. No dreams. There were times I heard voices, but who could tell what was real?
My grandson calling to me. My daughters crying but talking to me, at least, instead of about me as though I were furniture. One leaned in and whispered to me that I needed to keep fighting. I tried to shake my head. No. No fighting. Once, they told me it was snowing. Look at the snow, Mama.
They cried. I couldn’t tell them to stop stop crying it’s okay I need to rest just let me rest.
Then...nothing. No pain. No thought. No body. It was freer and more peaceful than anything I’ve ever known.
And now, this. My feathers are white. My bill is long. How odd to see the world through eyes on the sides of my head. I preen a bit and some movement catches my eye. I snatch the silvery fish from the water without thinking. It wiggles as I gulp it down whole, its fins poking the sides of my throat.
Well. Hooray for instinct, I suppose.
I start walking through the water, lifting my long legs and placing my long bird toes back down into the mud. Then there’s a loud crashing through the grass on shore, children running and laughing, squealing, splashing. I leap into the air and flap my wings. Flying! Who’d have thought I could do THIS a week ago? It’s as glorious as I imagined. I circle the water where I just stood and fly higher. The sun glints off of the water in sparkles of light. My wings catch the light, too, until I fairly glow.
When I look down, I see cars, rooftops, trees. I recognize the roads and follow them until I am over my house. I can feel waves of sadness coming from my family. A black limousine waits at the curb. I perch in a tree and watch. My keen egret eyes can see fine from here.
They walk to the car with their heads down, shuffling like zombies. I will them to look at me. The smallest grandchildren look straight at me and smile. My youngest daughter sees them smiling and follows their gaze. She smiles at me, too, until someone in the car speaks to her, and her mask returns.
I don’t follow the car. That thing they will bury isn’t me anymore.
But for the next few months, until my brain becomes more bird than human, I watch for them. Sometimes they see me.
I try to beam them comfort as their cars drive under my flightpath. When that youngest one straightened her shoulders and said, “Go get Dad” to walk her down the aisle, even though being given away compromised her principles, I was nearby. When she sat in a folding chair on a football field for a commencement ceremony I wasn’t there to see, I flew over the dais before the ceremony began, dropping a carefully timed blob of excrement on the very center of the stage, just to make her lighten up and laugh.
I try to send her the message that everything will be okay, that she won’t always feel so sad.
Because one day, she’ll be a bird.