Last year our neighbourhood was terrorised by a lovelorn blackbird.
All through spring and deep into summer, this optimistic little minstrel would perch on the edge of our building and sing his heart out, in the hope of attracting a mate.
He sang for months. All summer long. But in vain. For despite the most elaborate of vocal pleas, she never arrived.
Now, as the days grow longer, he has been roused again, and taken up his perch once more atop the roofs, chirping away with eager anticipation.
A few days ago, I came across some of my neighbours, standing on the pavement, necks craned, staring hopelessly upwards at the little creature as he sang his flirtatious overtures.
Another summer of sleepless mornings seemed to be beckoning and it was hard to look forward to the onset of spring, knowing that this tiny bird would be providing the soundtrack.
We could only look upwards and hope that, this spring, his musical appeals would be heard, and the elusive mate would fly to our rescue and provide our blackbird with the love he so clearly craves.
As we were standing there however, I noticed that one of our sad little group seemed genuinely pleased to see his return.
She alone was smiling.
“Do you like birds?” I asked her
She looked at me a little puzzled at first, then shrugged.
“Oh. It’s just, I thought you were smiling at him.”
“Yeah, well, I like this bird.”
Surely she was kidding? This twittering menace? Even other blackbirds found him impossible to love.
“You’re joking, right?” I asked her.
“But he’s going to keep you awake all summer! Don’t you remember him from last year, then?”
“I do. That’s why I like him.”
She could tell I wasn’t following her, but paused nonetheless, apparently amused by my confusion and incredulity.
I stared at her and tried my best to convey the fact that I thought she was more than a little eccentric.
We stared a little while longer at the bird. Then she continued.
“He helped me out last summer when I was sick. I was stuck at home, and some days I would sit out on the balcony in the sun. I just wanted to be outside, even if it was just to sit on the balcony. All the while, I could hear this bird singing, but it took a few days before I managed to spot him.
He was alone in the sun, just like me. Or that’s what I thought anyway. So I’d talk to him sometimes. Tell him things. I had a friend at school that I missed a lot. We’d fallen out just before I got sick, and it was only after a few days at home that I realised I missed her, and that I was sorry I had argued with her. The longer I sat there, the longer I was sick, the more I thought about that.
That I wanted to tell her I was sorry.
But I wasn’t getting better and it looked like school would break up before I got the chance to get back and make my apologies before the summer recess.
So I spoke to the bird. Told him about it. Asked him if he could maybe do me a favour. Maybe fly over to her. Let her know I was sorry.
I don’t know why I thought this. Why I thought this bird could do such a thing. I just knew, that if I asked him, if I wished for it, then it would happen.
He would fly to her house and pass on my message.
It was a few days before I heard from my friend. Days when I sat on the balcony and stared at the bird wondering why it was he hadn’t helped me. Why it was he had ignored me.
I was starting to hate him. To hate the sound of his singing. His cheerfulness.
He was nothing but a bird after all.
Then the phone rang and it was my friend. She was calling to see how I was. Calling a truce. Accepting, my apology. The bird hadn’t let me down after all.”
She finished her story, but never turned to look at me. Just kept her face tilted skywards towards her friend, the bird.
I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to question her or believe her.
So I said nothing. Simply turned my own gaze upwards, and smiled.