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AROUND ONE IN THE MORNING as we finally lay down to sleep, we heard the sound of a bird singing outside. The window of our bedroom was cracked open, and a cool night breeze was flowing in. I worried vaguely about catching a cold, but I didn’t get up to close it. I wanted to hear the bird. The sound of his long, high whistles echoing through the night filled me with an almost painful joy.

It had been four months since we’d run out of money. Somehow, we were still afloat. In the first month, the pastor had pulled us aside after service one day and whispered, kindly, that they were giving us a check. In the second, we had rediscovered an old savings account with just enough to tide us over. At the beginning of the third and fourth months, the hospital had refunded us several thousand dollars. Now the fifth month loomed in the distance, and despite all the previous miracles of happenstance—or perhaps because of them—it seemed impossible that there could be any more. Every day I woke up with a little more dread.

The bird sang mellifluously, unceasingly, each sound entirely different from the one before. My mind flooded with bird words: chatter, chirrup, warble, cheep. But I struggled to name the sounds I was actually hearing: melodious shrieks and yodels, long cackles and trills, as if emanating from alarm clocks, pan flutes, laser guns, and rattles. A richly coded symphony. Was it a nightingale or a mockingbird? I squeezed my eyes shut, listening. Trying to understand.

The sound of birdsong by night is the sound of nature reversed. A harbinger of disaster, perhaps. But the song was too beautiful to conjure up a sense of unease.

Perhaps, instead, it was the sound of a door about to open into another world from which centaurs and faeries might burst. Perhaps nothing was fixed or immutable anymore, not even gravity, and we would wake up the next day no longer anxious and poor but wealthy, at ease, secure. And in the twinkling of an eye, all would be changed. All would be changed, the bird seemed to sing. All manner of things…



Christina Gonzalez Ho is the author of the audio series The Last Two Years and coauthor of Los Angeles: Mestizo Archipelago (Pinatubo).




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