A killer is on the road and when I leave R.’s place early that morning, half-dream haunted (having slept haltingly under a bay window, shadowed lilacs moving in the wind), a crow swoops down madly squawking. It’s five a.m. and there’s a chill in the morning air and all the way to my apartment, which is only a parenthesis away, the crow follows, swooping when my back is turned and never shutting up. Others have woken, crows and not crows. Is this a message? Has the killer climbed to my second floor balcony and slipped in through the open door? I wasn’t expecting to be out long but when the news of the shots came I stayed over. So who knew where he was. So who knew if he’d slipped through the police noose and made it to the dark park and the path that leads to me. Does the crow know?
I’ve always found it fitting that trauma comes from Traum, the German word for dream. “Es war kein Traum,” Kafka writes early in Die Verwandlung when Gregor wonders what has happened. It was hardly a dream. Read any post-catastrophe interview – after 9/11, for example – and all you see is, ‘It was surreal.’
We live in a safe world. Mostly.
There was no killer hiding in my bathroom shower, nor in the bedroom closet. These things aren’t far-fetched, and yet they are. When I checked my balcony door (chain-locked, right), the crow was out there, on the wires, waiting. “So this crow followed me all the way home,” I told R. later in the day while the killer was still on the road (in the bushes, really). “It was very annoyed with me,” I said, also stating that I thought it might have brain damage. “Maybe it’s the one you chased out of the yard last week,’ R. said, and she was right, I had done that, darted into the driveway in my silver Fusion and leaped from the thing to chase a crow from the torn trash.
A grudge. An obsession. Wronged when the wronging was not what it seemed to be. We’re not so different from crows.