The Black Owl

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The only time he comes to occupy my window is virtually when the day fades into evening, when the chickens and their broods have retired. He comes when he is sure I’m musing over something which is invaluable and I would see him no more when the dark is thick as opaque. He has a body which seems vague in the dark. His color is black and the only place he stands when around, is at the window. Knowing him is impossible. Trying to know a name of him is hardly achievable. I tried to no avail. Probably, I had failed in this because he did not comprehend my sentences which were in plain simple English. I switched to the local language and to my dismay, silence lingered too, in his face and in his composure I saw nothingness. I even relinquished my power of speech and tried throwing my arms in the air, in account of sending him a message, anything at all, but the same decibel of silence as before spread between us.

He never understood a thing I said. I am not sure of this though, but what I am too confident of is that once there is no daylight, he must come and squat at that window and when he comes, he nods at intervals. He makes no sound at all. He only swerves his head in demeanor, sideways, when he peeks into my room, glancing at me with nostalgia painted in white colors in his eyes. He stares as though he knows me from a distant place I know not. A place I cannot remember because, a lot like him I have seen. The way he fixates his eyes on me tends to cause me bumps. It is amusing, very amusing and consolidating. He tends to bury his eyes into yours and thus puts it straight to you about his familiarity with a lot about you and your kindred and your family, in addition, your darkest secrets. He makes you fear him at first, and then when your fears and sudden doubts about him are no more, you get acquainted with him.

He has a contagious stare and on the days that marked the inceptions, I nearly went nut. The only things I understood about him were his dark wings that swayed carelessly when the soft breeze flew by the window, his outstretched short beak which must point at me when his face marks mine. His shoulders as always would heap two towers near his head. In between time, he would plod about, stopping at a thought and resume plodding. I stopped accommodating my fright for him and got used to his company. This February evening, as loneliness bathed me with profuse sweat, a mild sound travelled through the air and came crashing with a soft thud on the blue window pane. I usually leave it open, hoping he would enter whenever he cared. The tiny feet of an owl, black, with bold circular eyes circulating his entire face and an irregular shape declining his neck down to his back, I had seen at first glance. He distorted me from my sleep, as deep as it was and in alarm, I had sprung up. The flap of a bird’s wings I had heard. A mild and easy sound, clapping like the palms of the swift wind and disturbing my sweet kindergarten sleep. I became one with no option, one with no choice but to throw a welcome note to his face. Silence persisted. And very long it seemed to be.

When he did not answer, I sat mute on my bed. My eyes were deep in his. There is a suspense that cannot be wiped when you look at a bird’s face and he looks right back at you. In that moment of solitude, fragments of time turn minutes and there is an exchange of experiences as life in the human eye and life in the eyes of any bird. As my words of welcome came to a close, he looked away as usual and back at me. Such a strange creature this one is. We do not converse, but still, every evening, he must come to enjoy my company. This was strange. His head turned mechanically as though the word pricked him. He curled around, baffled and his head sunk into his wings, digging for something I would never know. He dug. He dug deep. And pecked on it, twice in mere seconds and turned back again into my green coated room.

I wondered what he was thinking today. What do birds such as this think when all they know is being silent? How do we look in their eyes when it is us they see?  And when they chirp, do they say that we are too dumb to comprehend the things they say? Why do they scamper away when all we want to do is to lean over and pet them, admire them and caress their fluffy body? He continued to be stale, mute, letting his movements do the talking and I, on another side replied too with the same movements as his. He twirled his head to gaze behind me, where the cupboard partitioned loose on the wall, where the portrait of a beautiful girl remained. Shrugging those shoulders of his, he readied his wings, leaping for the highs from the blue pane and began drifting into the air. As usual, I didn’t look perplexed, but otherwise puzzled.
The first day he started to come was when Esere arranged her things to travel to Accra. He had not come on any other day but that unfortunate one. Like I stated clearly in the beginning, he seemed to know eventually everything concerning me and where I lived. He came to fill the void desiccating me. I did not think of it like this then- that a black bird has been a significant part of my time in my green room. There is a question itching your mind, somehow, lurking in the edges. For example, how do I entail this bird to be masculine? I just do. I’m not a hundred percent sure but our connection is of two different species perhaps with the same temperaments, colliding in one biosphere and becoming lukewarm for the other. And I am also sure he is the same bird because his charisma is way too distinguished and embedded in him that one cannot make any mistake recognizing him.  This is the definition of our relationship. Despite we did not talk, we still knew each other. I knew he had a family someplace away and I knew that was where he went to when he was not anymore with me. I knew he had some issues similar to mine. Our connection was pure and calm, most times he would fly to Accra and back and I would be caught in dismay at the things he came back with. I would learn from him that the girl I loved was with another man. Most times, he returned with Esere’s lost scarf or a note clenched in his beak and when the contents of it were  made known to me, I would be more miserable and he would sit at that window, looking with such pity and misfortune carved all over his face. He felt what I felt.

I soon left my thoughts alone and came back to my green room, the green color on the texcote walls was shimmering, the green plain curtains hung on the silver rails, the green mattress slept on, on the side, and away from it, a green plastic table addressed a green stool under it and on another end, a green cozy wardrobe. Esere had named it our green room. She would stretch the word to emphasize on its importance. It was the finest of all greens. It was in this room that I lived. Green as my life was when she basked in my arms, moaning or crying, smiling back at my jokes or locking her cheeks in regret and promising me all the things in this world. Only my owl friend knows that she jabbed me the way cargo donkeys are jabbed and only he, a male comes to check on me. He had to help me gather the rubble of my life scattered on the tiled floor.
The special thing about him is that he never comes when I’m serious with work, he comes but once a day. He comes when I’m drifting in the vapors of Marcus’s cannabis indica   or when I’m lost in thoughts or when I’m seeing Esere’s face under my closed lids. That was our solemn agreement. Do not come at odd times. Align only when I’m spared. How he does it, I cannot tell. But this owl is so articulate that he has never come when the time is not right. This precision once made me wonder what sort of game he was brooding under his nose. Indeed, he was not. He was only coming to keep an eye on me. The only time that did not fit was that very significant evening which marked Esere’s departure.

Esere came to me when it was me against the whole wide world. She came bearing peace and wide open arms which embraced me when the things of this world dealt me against the wall. I can never forget her smooth face, fair as I loved it. She loved to wear a scarf over her grown brown hair. I loved her and she did too. But you see, women are enigmas even the costliest wills cannot aid their comprehension. Before she went away from my grasp that evening, an argument had been shuffled between the both of us about how she was discarding her promises to me and about how indifferent things around here were to become if on another day, she left it whole. But not today, I had said to her. If on a different day, it would be considered, but the thought of reminiscence would ever more continue to throb my head in funny ways. As harsh words unruffled from our lips, an owl came and jammed the pane. It seemed as though a collision perhaps. She did not hear the soft thud, I alone did. And being puzzled by its appearance, I stared with admiration.

Esere still wielding her stuff in her hands became incensed at my lost attention. As quick as her anger came, she made for the door, grabbing the wobbly knob and banging it behind her. The beads of sweat on my forehead turned to avalanches as they receded down my face in streaks. He had come just in time to see how I would regret and had flown away as Esere stumbled down the threshold. And now too, he had come to wake me and is leaving behind the green shutters. I slumped to join my sleeping mattress at their departure. Time oscillated like a pendulum and morning came in all its full weight. It was a very cold one. It was not the cry of a cock that edged me back into my green room but the sharp continuous pecking sound on the window. And it was still open.  And I got up to see my little owl friend in the early morning blazing sun. His face was pale and he swiveled his eyes as he looked at me. His dull sorry eyes, which on other days sparkled with life, did not want to blink. The timing was odd. Have you ever seen an owl in the noon?

He is so beautiful and as a pet, you’ll crave it. Looking more attentively at him, I saw sadness and loneliness and a bunch of other negative ordeals which I never knew existed in the life of birds. What had happened? Had his family left him too for a distant settlement? Was he here to give me some news which would curse my morning? He pecked once more and ceased, his face creasing in obscure bitterness. Abandoning my bed, I made for the blue window, with pity, to ask him what had befallen him this morning. As I neared, he wouldn’t want my approach. He flew away. He glided into the sky and I watched his tail disappear into oblivion.

Well, this story would be pathetic if I failed to tell you how ruined I became. All through that very day, I worried. Whilst I worked, I thought of this owl. I waited in the afternoon and till the evening and he never came through. I had been engrossed with him in ways I didn’t know.  I was disturbed by the thoughts that when I took a short snooze out of nature, I literally saw him in my dreams. In this particular dream, he was in a certain beach, on the end of a somewhat wild savannah and watching the swirling water rumbling towards shore. He seemed happy by the look of things but there was something else. Something I never took notice of earlier. This bird like me was lonely. These , I did not see early enough, because in his company  I knew things would be okay and I never thought of Esere and the things she did to me. For whenever he came, he portrayed the look of fulfillment but hold on, this is but a dream.

The next morning, I woke up and in my bunched fists, the thoughts of an owl resided. I came to consciousness thinking about him, ate a tasteless breakfast still wrestling with thoughts of him. Was he sick? Had he caught the flu? And when sleep wanted to pat me on the back, I feared to sleep because in my dark dreams, I must see a black owl and who knows where next he would be. When I worked on a paper, his image battered my head. It perambulated my head  and I noticed with comfort how attached I had been with him – a simple fluffy beautiful and friendly bird which its name I never knew or it’s cool company I would never know anymore.


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About Solomon Uhiara

Literature and music are the things I crave for. I believe modern literature has more to offer now that stories happen everyday. I was born in Kaduna, Nigeria.
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