At first I wasn’t sure that what I was hearing existed in the outside world. It could have been an echo of a dream, or a misinterpretation of a real sound by a sleepy, 5AM brain.
And then it happened again. And again. I strained to figure out the identity of the sound. My mind compared it, I suppose, to every other sound that came in striking distance of this one. It was a rap. No. It was a wham. No. The sound, skipping like a record player but slower, was somehow tamped down. It had multiple parts that chimed at once–it was like a sharp thud. What the hell is a sharp thud? How could anything sound like that?
When deconstructing a sound, there is complexity. The start of the sound, the middle (this is optional) and the finish. Every sound pushes against air, creates something from nothing and then travels out in all available directions until a fraction of that creation reaches our ears, where it is funneled down to our eardrums. And then when our tiniest bones rattle our experienced brains quickly sort through our dendrite-supported memory and label those sound waves. A dog barking. Glass shattering. A soda can opening. There may be individual differences among those canines, windows, and pops, but they’re similar enough that it doesn’t take us very long to assess and categorize what we hear. All things being equal, of course.
But here I was, the clock relaying the early hour to me, and the sound. The sound. The sound.
It’s unusual for someone in their 40s to hear a completely brand new wave. (Ha. I wrote new wave.) And yet, I couldn’t place this on listening alone. So I got up–clad in boxers and a faded t-shirt. My hair was pillow-conformed. I forgot my eyeglasses on the bedside table, so I wasn’t great at seeing anything in front of me, either. (Rookie mistake.) I stood in the dining room, swaying a little, waiting for the next eruption.
Fw-whap-bang. There. In the corner of the living room.
I hoped it wasn’t a bat. I’d dealt with a loose bat in the house back in 1991, in Syracuse. It plagued me and my cat for the better part of a week. But there was no ticking noise like bats make, so it wasn’t that.
Fw-whap-bang. Bang! I saw movement again, and this time I was 10 feet closer. It was a bird, trying to fly into a living room window. And succeeding, except for the window is a solid object part.
Orange. Wings. Rapid fluttering. The window was getting a full-on attack from the bird. My heart sank, remembering a bird that smashed itself to death in our big picture window a couple of months earlier. But this bird wasn’t going all dive-bomby on me. It was up in arms, over its own visage.
I took a page from our newspaper and propped it against the window, thinking that would change what the robin was seeing. It stopped the assault for two minutes, which was just enough time for me to get back in bed with the covers over me.
This had begun to take on the sensation of a leaky faucet that will not be silenced. Next to me, Susanne slumbered on. The baby in his nursery had not a care in the world. And now I was wide awake. Fw-whap-bang. Fwfwfwfw-whap.
I shut our bedroom door. That took the noise down a few decibels, but it was a strategy used too late. Now my brain had keyed in on the sound and would have heard it from two miles away. It was like trying to muffle a jet engine.
Get ahold of yourself, I told me. You lived in DC for years. You’ve slept through everything from sirens to cicadas to Puerto Rican firefighters breaking down the door to your hotel room (long story). This is just a little more repetitive.
Well, then. So are many forms of torture.
Eventually I became so exhausted I slept through the shenanigans. But I’d lost two hours of sleep, and on the morning after my out of town business trip. I could have used the sleep.
The next day was Saturday. My little bird brain friend began the next wave of attack at 5:38AM. This time I knew what the godforsaken sound meant.
I marched out onto the porch in my boxers and t-shirt. I grabbed the half-broken broom I keep out there to beat back the cobwebs, and I menaced the bird with it. He flew to the top of a 100-foot high maple tree and nattered at me in irritation. Oh, HE was pissed at ME? I’m the one standing on the porch in my underwear with a busted household cleaning device!
I named him Robin the Asshole Bird. I did this in my own head, still sane enough not to announce my naming choice to the neighborhood. Robin the Asshole Bird gave me twenty minutes of quiet time, during which I dreamed of something completely unrelated to robins. I only know this because when I was awakened at 6:13 by Robin the Asshole Bird, I was shocked that beings like territorial robins even existed.
Arrrgh. Fwfwfwfw-whap-bang. He was back. I put the pillow over my head, which surprisingly enough, made it too difficult to breathe.
Sunday rolled around. Quietly the sky brightened as the planet named Earth rotated to face the day.
Fw-whap-bang. Fw-whap-bang. Bang. Fwfwfwfw-whap.
5:19. Ante meridian. Oh. My. Xena.
I posted about it on Facebook, looking for suggestions and sympathy. I got some of that. And true to form, I also received a lot of jokes. Susanne moved things out from the windows that we thought Robin the Asshole Bird found interesting. Move along, bird. Move the hell along. Someone on Facebook told me our windows were too clean. For the record, our windows are filthy. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has washed these windows in twelve years. There are no fewer than eight layers of dirt dried onto the glass, some dating back to the Jurassic Period. I’m pretty sure there is a new form of energy caked onto our windows, if only BP would go looking. That Robin the Asshole Bird can see any object in these windows, much less himself, is testament to the total insanity of this situation.
Monday morning. My little friend didn’t want me to forget about him. 5:32AM. I groaned.
It’s not just the early hour, it’s that this wake-up call continues for hours. And Robin the Asshole Bird comes back at dusk for an hour or so. I don’t know what the hey Robin the Asshole Bird is guarding, but it better be the bird equivalent of Fort Knox up in that maple tree. When he busted up my slumber this morning, I had been dreaming about taking out small woodland creatures with a BB gun. Robin the Asshole Bird is like that demon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer who loved to listen to Cher and sucked Buffy’s soul away bit by bit.
I am Buffy in this scenario, in case it wasn’t clear. And Robin the Asshole Bird is like hearing “Believe” on repeat for a solid year. A year, I swear.
I came home from my morning at the office, a less pleasant person than usual because of Robin the Asshole Bird, and Emile gave me a smile. Susanne had hung towels all over the windows on the west side of the house. Still, there was the repeated
from Robin the Asshole Bird. Emile, in his high chair, gave me a grin and said, “Uh oh, tweet tweet.”
Kid knows how to tell it.