The pigeon regards me with a single eye. I know not what it wants. I maintain my focus on my Sunday broadsheet, proudly purchased with a pocketful of change. I have progressed to page six, where I find further insightful analysis and intelligent comment. I consume it noisily.
My indifference emboldens the little bird. It scuttles closer, its headpecking curious and attentive to the possibilities I appear to offer.
This bothers me. My focus dislocated, I scrutinise it now through my peripheral vision.
It is a single pigeon, unaccompanied by any others of its kind. To be clear - there are others in the park, some by the lake, others under trees or over paths. Some are in ungainly flight, mooching and sniffing from one source of sustenance to another.
They disgust me, these rodents of the skies. In lazy protest, I dangle a kick towards the pigeon. I seek not to harm it but hope it will move on and leave me to my broadsheet-based idyll.
The pigeon is perturbed but not abashed. It looks inquisitively at my offered foot as if it means to peck it or attempt a nibble. Its anxious neck tuts to and fro. Bemused and bored, I push out my foot again.
‘Away, pidgin,’ I mutter.
I look around for where it might scuttle off to. It could go and plunder a bin or harass a small toddler. It could start a turf war with some local squirrels for all I care. If only it would leave me in peace.
I look back at its little pigeon face. It remains intent in its longing, pure in its solitude, unblinking in the afternoon haze.
And now I stifle a laugh in something approaching admiration - the little blighter doesn’t give up readily!
Then it occurs to me - pigeons never form a cohesive whole. While one might stumble upon a great number of them all seemingly together, they are always independently squabbling and seeking some advantage over another. They do not appear to feel solidarity or warmth - they do not look at each other and smile fondly. They do not reminisce or laugh.
A desperation washes over and submerges me completely. I regard the pigeon. Sympathy would be too strong a word, but I understand its plight more fully now. This pigeon is alone but for its own instincts. Perhaps all it seeks is company.
I do not encourage the bird but nor do I dissuade it. While I sit still with my paper, page six bristling gently in the breeze of the park, my focus is now entirely on the pigeon and what it might do. I am alive to it now, its mangy feathers and contorted beak, its darting eyes windows to the black retinas behind.
The pigeon remains upwards glancing and skittish. I see it desires some more decisive move from either it or myself, but is not yet confident enough to take or elicit action.
I carefully rearrange myself, moving leg that had been resting on opposite knee to ground. I fold my paper and make to place it carefully on the bench beside me. However, I am too eager - the paper slips from my hands and slaps to the ground.
The pigeon is betrayed by this development. It thought we had developed an understanding. It hops back uncertain, and looks at my face, judging, predicting my behaviour.
I am saddened and make to apologise - I meant no harm. I had just become uncomfortable and needed to rearrange.
But there is something lost between us now. I have nothing substantial to offer it to tempt it to stay - I could volunteer a sheet of my paper, perhaps some of the glossy advertising material that tumbles forth at random intervals.
I slyly and hastily check my pockets for any treats within - a biscuit perhaps, or a fruitcake. There is nothing but faded receipts and lint.
The pigeon is lost. Any hope I had of keeping it is dashed by my carelessness and under-preparedness for the day. Quietly, I curse myself for not thinking to bring with me a bag of nuts or other assorted snackstuffs.
The pigeon looks about for other interests. Perhaps by the tree or off towards the road. Its attention, but a minute ago so intently focussed on me and my form, is now elsewhere. It has moved on.
I regard the pigeon as it scuttles off, over the grass and away, to pick and peck at the shoes of another.
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