? SLAB | Sound & Literary Art Book

Issue 1

Creative Nonfiction

Jennifer Knox

Cycles of Song

“Sometimes you just need a point of reference to gain clarity,” Professor Banker offered. I stared blankly, wondering how pessimism could be taught through such a wide, honest smile. “Camus teaches us to make the most of a ludicrous existence.”
    As I slice bananas into my oatmeal, listening to the melody Bird sings, I become moved by the beauty of her gentle tone; so much so that I want to join in. Unfortunately I never learned how to whistle properly, so my lips purse into a circle and I blow out warm air. Attempting the high-pitched feat, I am only met by a steady stream of disappointment, accompanied by the hollow sound of failure.
    Bird (whose name came from an otherwise creative boyfriend) lives within the pale blue lines of her cage. Her home is adorned with beads and tassels that she pecks at with apparent joy. This decadence may seem like a good idea; something for her to do. After all, Chris and I could not fathom parenting an unfulfilled Parakeet. What we didn't realize, however, was that we may have been introducing a far greater challenge to her life by decorating her cage so flamboyantly.
    Every three weeks or so, a cycle begins. She cuddles up to her beads (most often the purple ones with the hexagon shape) and ducks her head down under them so that they weigh heavy on her delicate back. From here she lifts her blue butt high into the air and bobs up and down in a rhythmic motion that, if I catch, I yell at her for. She stares past me through a small black disc-shaped eye, probably wondering why all the fuss. Then, she resumes her joy.
    A week or so after each encounter with the beads, three to five pink eggs will appear at the bottom of her cage. At this point Bird becomes less friendly and rarely sings in her sweet song. She begins fanning her tired body above her eggs and gyrating for hours on end to keep them warm. Until, eventually, she comes to the realization that her shiny lover is no replacement for the real thing. Beads know nothing of how to father, and as Bird realizes this, she takes on a defensive, un-singing persona that threatens to peck your eyes out if only you change her water dish in the wrong manner. Her demeanor stays this way until; ultimately, she takes her anger out on the very source of her discontent. Her pointed beak goes to work on the paling pink eggs and her fury is released as they break open to sheer nothingness; a symbol of her inadequacy. Then, a week or so passes before I catch her with that butt hiked up once more.
    Professor Banker's voice rings in my ears as I watch Bird now. She told us that Albert Camus believed all of life to be absurd. People live to push a perpetual rock up a perpetual hill until they die. I remember sitting in class, my ears filled with the heavy air of un-acceptance. I went to that class with more apprehension than anything else during such lectures. I would shift in my seat as my professor spoke, curling my lip and biting it, looking upwards toward the pocked white ceiling, then outward toward the window. The lecture was defeating and meant that most people's lives were purposeless. Camus taught that freedom lies within our mind. Herein lies our ability to add purpose to our lives, I understood, but was that enough? Not for me.
    As Bird's cycle varies from determination to pain, she ultimately ends up in a state of destruction and forgiveness. Her cycle always seemed disheartening, but nothing compared to the pain I inflicted when I decided to “quit torturing her” and remove the beads from her cage. I was met with anger. Bird began to peck at her empty cage voraciously. She squawked a high-pitched rant at my audacity.
    The marketing agency that packaged the beads as “Endless Parakeet Entertainment” may not have had a love affair in mind, but Bird has in fact found unwavering entertainment. One could even venture to say she has found purpose within their shiny appeal. They would have to be replaced, and I did so with little trepidation.