Of course, Sam had always told himself “tomorrow.” More than a few people had told him that that was his problem, that that was the thing that was wrong with him. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. That wasn’t exactly it, though. It was that nothing ever looked worthy of commiting to. Every situation he encountered, he felt the same: a momentary surge of some emotion within himself, anger or jealousy or sadness or happiness, and then it receded and he was left with the same dull apathy he felt almost every moment of his waking life.
He wanted a real job, but not badly enough to go on interviews. He longed for a comfortable place to sleep, but he was not so uncomfortable that he wanted to go through the hassle of finding a shelter bed.. The tracks looked inviting, but not inviting enough to lay down on them and await the end.
Tomorrow. Maybe things would be different tomorrow. But nothing ever was, and he knew it.
At least, the day started the same. He woke up, scavenged for food, begged for money, bought a breakfast sandwich that would likely be his only meal of the day. And then he took to the subway tunnels. He rode the cars. Sometimes he sat on benches and people watched. He picked up the newspapers and magazines that the riders discarded, looking for things to read. Looking for ways to pass the time.
Night came, although the light never changed in the tunnels. He was considering trying to sleep on a bench, wondering if he’d be able to get a few hours before someone came and insisted he leave. That was when he saw it. A lone pigeon, a french fry in its mouth, an unnatural confidence in its step. It was walking straight towards him on two good legs, not eating its fry, not darting its head nervously around looking for predators and competitions. It walked towards him like it knew who he was.
And oh, it was beautiful.
“Ralph?” Sam asked, his voice barely a whisper. “Ralph, is that you?”
It must have been. It walked in between his legs, sat on the ground underneath the bench, cooed, pecked at the french fry. Sam stared in disbelief, his mind rushing to reconcile what he was seeing with his knowledge of reality. Pigeons don’t just grow their feet back. Ralph had probably died, been eaten by a cat or kicked by an angry passenger or else just accidentally trampled underfoot. Or maybe simply passed away. Pigeons in the wild didn’t live more than a few years. But here it was, its feathers shiny, its eyes and its skin bright, its body plump.
It had changed. It had changed for the better. Sam didn’t understand it, but somehow in this unnatural and oppressive place, Ralph had become something better. Something more whole. Something more beautiful. Maybe any pigeon could. Maybe anything could.
Maybe he could.
“Ralph,” Sam whispered. “Ralph, I’m going to find a real bed. I’m going to try and get a bed at a shelter. But I’ll be back, okay? I’ll see you again. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
The end! I have no idea why I was writing about pigeons. Expect something less avian on Friday!