Yesterday, I got caught up in the typical delays that seem to plague the metro so often these days, striking its passengers so conveniently after a long workday and that intense desperation to get as far away from it as possible. Even my contingency, a green line train, was delayed.
We finally started moving at regular pace again somewhere around the Howard University exit, where a bird flew through the open doors and joined the rest of us along the back of the train, nestling into the middle of a seat at the end of the row next to the window. I didn’t notice it was there until the man dressed in the suit sitting next to the bird told another man who was waiting to sit down the he’d “have to move the bird.” The man that was standing laughed at this. “No, that’s okay, you don’t have to move the bird.” I heard this, thinking the man in the suit had actually brought a birdcage with a bird in it on the train and planted it in seat next to him. When I heard the details that the bird had flown in at one of the last stops, I turned around. So did the lady next to me. And we looked down at the bird.
Birds on a motherfucking train!
It just sat there, patiently, although it’s chest fluttered with what might have been fear.
Along the way, just before we started approaching the outdoor stops, the man tried to calm the bird, presumably so it would just stay put, probably having seen it’s chest nervously fluttering. He talked to it almost like a kid, asking it how it was doing and what it thought of everything. Something like that, where he must have believed at some point that the bird comprehended his words, or better yet, would respond accordingly. Perhaps in the English language. Aside from myself and now the woman transfixed on her medical literature about genetic impressions, no one else had seen the bird. A man sat across the aisle listening to what he t
hought was the guy in the suit talking to himself. Later, he’d admit this to the man in the suit, saying he thought he had a “Harvey thing going on,” referring to James Stewart’s imaginary rabbit friend in an old movie.
When we finally started getting to outdoor stops, the man in the suit started to curl his newspaper, hoping to nudge the bird just a short distance in the direction of the door so he’d eventually find his way out and fly away. Instead, it had the same effect of trying to nudge a lizard in a desired direction with a newspaper. It’s just more interested in getting away from that damned newspaper, regardless of what direction that may be. It flew behind the seat and started chirping and finally, people near us started to take notice of this little bird that had been on the train for a little while now. It flew to our side, and the woman reading the medical journal didn’t make any indication that she was remotely aware of what was going on. Then it flew over to the opposite side of the aisle and into a young kid’s ponytail fro. He’d had his hat on the whole time until then, I noticed. He looked a little incensed by the whole thing – the man in the suit bothering with this bird that in the end, messed up his ponytail fro a little. While he smoothed it out, wearing a screw face, the man in the suit now was on his elbows and knees trying to trap the bird. But with what? “Do you have a jar?” he asked the guy who made the Harvey reference, when he said that what the guy needed was some kind of a container. With seeming regret, the man in the suit opened a large plastic container that looked to have contained his lunch.
I lifted my legs like there was an invisible ottoman in front of me so I could accommodate his search as I kept reading. It looked comical, this grown man in a suit crawling around on the floor as others around him tried pointing him in the direction of the bird. He closed the lid on his empty lunch container. The bird darted across the aisle now, squawking loudly at the commotion of a couple of people trying to grab him. He landed on one of the rods that people hold on to and just remained there. A young guy stood slowly up in his seat and reach out his hands to carefully cup the bird. And he was successful, kind of laughing as the man in the suit told him he did a good job. I thought his reply was that he was “an expert at this sort of thing,” which made me wonder if he grew up on a farm or if his profession somehow involved animals. He held on to the bird, which I kept imagining was going to crap in his hand at this point in response to being so scared of getting disturbed from a peaceful ride first by a newspaper, then a dozen or so people crawling on the floor.
The girl next to the kid who caught the bird asked the man in the suit if wanted the bird back, did he plan to keep the bird? The man in the suit laugh and explained that he was trying to get it out so it could fly away. When we pulled into the Prince George’s County station platform, the young guy walked to the door and the bird did exactly that. It was quiet for the rest of the trip. At Greenbelt, as I was going through the pay stalls, I noticed a man standing in the station by himself, looking up. You could hear the birds hidden in the crevices of the ceiling. He seemed to be transfixed on them as though it were impossible that they could be there.