It’s not that I didn’t know Andrew was a bird. Of course I knew. He walked around the house, sapphire feathers puddling on the floor all around him, beak hanging open as though he waited for a seed. His plumage was a constant shadow in the corner of my eye. His Magic 8-Ball eyes followed my every move, always watching.
The problem was that I never liked birds. The erratic flapping of wings. The razor mouths. The obvious lack of arms. That’s not what a man ought to look like, I thought. But Andrew was six feet of bird whether I liked it or not, and my mother was fond of him anyway.
I could live with it, maybe. I made him sweep the house clean of feathers every day and munch on his worms in the parking lot, where I didn’t have to see him. I wore earplugs to bed to drown out his early morning chirps, ignored the tap-tap-tap of his talons on the hardwood floor.
But at night, I watched him with my fists curled, nails biting into the meat of my palms. I didn’t want him to know. I didn’t want him to catch me looking, cataloging everything that made him so difficult for me to love.
One day, I returned to find a nest in the living room, the eye of a cyclone. He must have gathered hundreds of little branches, arranged them in a circle just big enough for one—maybe two. Spider silk and saliva held it all together. It seemed so fragile I didn’t dare touch it.
From the kitchen, Andrew perhaps sensed my hesitation.
“Go on. I built it for us.”
“What for?” I asked.
“What is any nest for?”
I stepped in with one foot, hesitant. The branches were a sharp sting on the skin of my sole. One or two weaker ones broke under my weight. Each of their points met each of my bones, pressed and prodded to bruise, until Andrew wrapped himself around me. I hated how much I had come to enjoy his embrace, the heat of it, the liquid soft down of his chest.
We stayed there all night. He slept, and some feathers fell in my mouth. When he stretched, his claws scratched my legs bloody.
Elia Karra (she/they) is an author and filmmaker from Athens, Greece. She is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing through Lindenwood University and working on her first novel. You can find her at eliakarra.com and on Twitter at @eliakarra.
Lead image: “Nest” (via Flickr user furtwangl)