The next several days, I keep my head down. I don’t ask questions or suggest outings. I spend my days roaming the city, but I’ve now become sufficiently street to be refused service most places. I sit at parks and people watch. Humans – the working, schooling, living drones – are a curious species. How I ever felt part of them is odd. I’ve barely been homeless a month and I have almost nothing in common with the people I watch.
Some are like sparrows, or maybe robins: They roost nearby and show themselves only when necessary.
A few are like cardinals: Surprisingly pleasant when they brighten the horizon. They are rare in the heart of the city, but they are bright.
Most are like pigeons: you can expect them in the same places at the same times without fail. Losing an eye or a wing wouldn’t stop them.
The others like me, well, we aren’t even in the same category anymore, are we? We’re some sort of amalgamation, dirty and numerous like pigeons, roosting nearby like the commoners, with the memory of bright spots on a horizon we left some time ago. We are unbirds. Clipped wings. Nests smashed and temporary. Willing to be vile if it means surviving.
I don’t pretend, even to myself, that I am any older at this than I am. It very often crushes the breath from me when I recognize myself as an unbird. The only salve for my injuries is to fix someone else.
It’s not long before I turn back to June-Bug’s pregnancy and my need to ensure its safety – their safety. But I’m not the only would-be protector; I’m just the one doing it the least amount of time with the least finesse.
I arrive at my rat-infested, communal nest today to find no one. When this place is our night’s respite, someone always stays through the day. My fellow unbirds have fled. I search the piles of rubbish for some note or clue as to their whereabouts. I almost give up when I see the clear writing in the grime on a table: Where we met.
Cindi? I met this tribe just after I left Cindi’s shelter. This must be a message for me. I mean, I’m the only one newly met. Right? Before I leave, I open my laptop, feeling sick with nerves that an unbird will see me with it. The information seems stuck. I no longer even access information as quickly as the humans.
That’s ridiculous, of course. My laptop doesn’t really care that I stuff it in a bag or that I’m homeless or that I’m an unbird.
Finally, the thing is booted and responds to my every command with the swift assurance technology grants the blessed. My calendar opens and reflects my emptiness. A brittle and slightly mad-sounding laugh escapes and echoes. I count the days since Cindi and find, to my astonishment, that I’ve passed the three-week mark. I wonder if she’s alerted anyone. I wonder if she even knows.