Today was my first day biking across the city, from NW to NE to SE, passing back and forth from poverties to glories, from projects to lobbying offices, minutes apart. But it was in SE near the capitol I saw the crow.
It was in the shaded and lovely streets surrounded by restaurants and pillared government buildings. It was by a small park. I was listening to The Sun Also Rises, and barely paying more attention than I needed to stay alive. I was preoccupied. The crow caught my attention because it was screaming in the middle of the road. I looked at it confused for a moment, and stopped. it was shaped wrong, and it wasn’t running from traffic. It just stayed where it didn’t belong. I parked my bike and walked out into the middle of the road. I thought “If I try to help it I need to be careful, it will try to attack.” I wanted to block the cars, I wanted to get it off the road. Other crows were coming up to it, replying with screaming of their own. They flew and land and flew again violently and without reason. I got up close. I didn’t kneel, I wanted to be visible to the traffic. The tip of its beak was covered in blood. It held it wings strangely and breathed hard and painfully. It didn’t try to step away or turn as I came up to it. It didn’t cock its head to look at me. I didn’t believe then I could save it, and I did believe it would attack me as best it could. I stood there for a moment not sure what to do, my mind was blank. A man in a grey suit behind me stopped and began walking in tight little circles with his phone out.
The birds were angry at me and one in particular moved from screaming to diving. It occurred to me there is no language in nature to say “But I want to help.” It’s not something that happens in nature. It dived again and hit my head hard, and I was grateful that I’d kept my helmet on. The screaming drowned out the city noise.
I stepped back as the cars came on, mostly big black SUVs. All of them saw the bird and slowly drove over it, trying to keep it between their wheels. I longed for someone to finish it. None killed it, only caught it here and there on the bottom of their cars, injuring it more and more. It screamed with every car that drove over it. I considered whether I could kill it. I felt sick and shaky, but I knew I had to. I thought my light bike would only hurt it more. I considered whether I could stamp on its head, but I was scared, even more because I wasn’t sure I would kill it. I imagined it staring up at me in pain I couldn’t end. The other crows were getting truly violent now, and they scared me. They had picked me as the focus of their anger. I didn’t know what they would do if I killed it.
I stayed close by. The man in the suit behind me was on his phone now, explaining. “It’s just in the middle of the street. I’ve never seen anything like it.” He was stuck in his spot. Another man, browned and tan and fit in shorts and a tank top walked up beside a jeep and stood there looking at it, scared. His gripped his phone, offered it forward like a talisman. “What do we do?” he asked me, “Do we call 911?” I shook my head, thinking, this is ridiculous, but I understood. “No,” I said, “It’s too far gone, it just needs to be put out of its misery.”
He paced back and forth. I had hoped it was his jeep, and that I could ask him to finish it, but he made no move for it. Finally I said, “Get back, be careful of the birds, they’re diving. I have a helmet on.” He paced back a little bit, not willing to go and not able to stay. The bird had stopped screaming now. A volvo came up and slowed, and I jumped out in front of it and went to the open window. “Please,” I said to the man driving, “If you can, it’s too far gone to be helped, it needs to be put out of its misery.” He looked stricken, but backed up the car. He aimed and took his hands off the wheel and flattened them against his head over his ears. He let the car roll forward.
There was a pop. I grimaced; he’d missed the head, but I was sure he’d crushed the heart. It was good enough. I ran up to the car as he pulled away and shouted “Thank you!” He didn’t look back. I turned to the bird. It was still, and I could see its viscera spilling into the street. I wished that I’d taken it to the side of the road, but it didn’t care, and there were the other birds, still wheeling violently over me.
There was more traffic coming. I got back on my bike and put my headphones back on. I continued on my way.
I have had enough of death today.