Once again, I feel Mr. Reners eyes on the back of my head as I fumble with my keys at the door to my apartment.

I’ve always been able to tell when someone is staring at me. I think. Again, I over-exaggerate an abrupt turn to face him before he has the chance to skittishly retreat back into his dwelling. It’s not nice, I know, but for some reason it gives me satisfaction.

I get through the door finally and switch on the main lamp that flickers for a few seconds before lighting up the room. A lot of people feel a sense of ease or relaxation when they arrive at their home.
Not me. Not tonight.

A combined sight of dirty dishes and stack of mail on the counter are a fast memento that a mind of ease is not to be obtained tonight. Recalling I still have a quarter full plastic bottle from Quik’s whiskey special, I draw a weak smile as I take two strides across the room to my freezer and unscrew the cap and tip back my first swig. No need to dirty another cup.

Drinking has never been a problem for me but I find myself allocating more money in my budget for it than before. I guess it’s cheaper and better for me than pills, also helps me numb my head as well as hunger.

My fiancé has been dead for nearly a year. But pictures of us together still cling to my fridge. Smiling at a Chinese restaurant with chopsticks in our mouths like elephant tusks. Dressed as the Aristocats at our friend’s costume party. And another one, my birthday last year after I had been gifted a large amount of heroin we shot up right after the Polaroid was snapped.

My hands smell like fish and guts from cutting salmon all day. I take off my stupid hat and name tag while heading to the shower through my room.

Once again I feel sharp eyes on me. Not human.

“Hello girl, I brought you fish.”

Roura squawks eagerly as she catches the hunk in midair. Her pure white wings flap to help keep her balance.

There’s something about macaws I’ve always found intimidating. I don’t feel like I’m in physical danger but it’s as if I’m being questioned. Maybe it’s their eyes that pierce any form of defense a person could conjure, or the way they turn their heads while staring, as if waiting for me to explain my actions.

But tonight the stares bore deeper than intimidation.

Her eyes dart down, only for a split second, before returning her tractor beam glare to me. Tracing her gaze to the floor I see a gray sleeve sticking out from under my dresser. I pull the sleeve and reveal my baggy sweatshirt which must have been buried and unseen for months now.

Roura stares at me and contorts her head, almost amused, as if to say, “Yes, continue.”

This sweater should smell bad if it has been unwashed and under my bed for months, right? Instead, I smell a sweet aroma, faint, but unforgettable.

Roura is making loud noises again, noises I usually try to interpret as words but my ears might as well have fallen off my head. My thoughts override all my senses as I fall back into my favorite memory associated with this smell.

“Don’t worry. We weren’t meant to have that.”

We stared out at the ocean, shoeless and bummed. The white frisbee we had stolen just an hour ago from a gas station raised and lowered from the rolling tide as if waving, “Thanks for over-throwing me, mother fuckers.”

“Seriously, no way are we getting in that water. It’s just karma taking it back from us.”

I loved that about her. Even when we made a dirtbag move, like stealing a 99 cent frisbee, she would say something like that to not only make an optimistic lesson out of the situation, but also to tie us into the master plan. I loved the idea of holding a small connection to the world, although we never outwardly showed it.

The bird squawks again. I turn and try to make sense of why she wants me to remember this painful, beautiful memory, but now she just stares again.

I remember when Roura came into our possession.

“Baby, we have to! Her owners are assholes and are starving her!”

I looked into her eyes. Those goddamn eyes that made me think that stealing a thousand dollar fucking bird from fellow drug addicts was a brilliant idea and was somehow for the greater good.

“Alright, fine. We can keep it for awhile.”

The next night we became the proud owners of a scrawny white macaw that had previously belonged to the neighbors of a dealer we had relations with. Its squawks of pain through the cheap walls had finally gotten unbearable during our ten minute trips to the tweaker end of town. Once we saw the owners of the bird had started shooting up and passed out we snuck in and took Roura, cage and all.

I bury my face in the sweater, trying to draw every last particle of perfume out of it, willing it to take me back to the beach.

The sweater matched perfectly with the sky that day. This light made her bright eyes pop. The feeling of adoration I felt when they were on me that day warmed me more than my loaned out sweater ever could have.

Instead of love, I am filled with anger.

“Why do this to me bird?”

She squawk-laughs and I lose it.

I throw open the window and push her cage right up to it. Using my hand as a prod, I poke and usher the bird into finally taking off. Shaking with fury, I watch the last connection from love I had fly off into the night.

I’ve never felt so alone. Not even on my birthday last year when I awoke the lifeless body of my bride to be in the bed beside me.

My imagination illuminates the white figure in eyesight for a longer time than realistically possible. Carelessly laughing at its previous owner.

Had I owned her? Or was this final stunt to show me that she had controlled my emotions this whole time and was my mental superior?

I have a quick thought that Roura is my last symbol of heartbreak and failure, that by releasing her I am relinquishing all undead feelings.

No, it’s never that easy.

Tonight, I lie in my bed. My bottle is empty and I’m wrapped only in an old gray sweater. Tears and heavy breathing have made the scent fainter but still I hold it close to my face, praying to a god whose existence I have spent my entire life denying that it will take me back to the beach where I am cared for, ultimately a part of something bigger.

But I’m not. Just like the frisbee, I recede into the ocean where even my vibrant colors are drowned, slowly, almost entirely forgotten by the waves.


Eli Stillman, a junior, is a communications major at SOU, editor in chief of The Siskiyou, and a member of the varsity cross country and track teams.