I held my breath under the dark pool. It was filled with chlorine and bird feathers, from all over the world. The young white boy, Olphine, would hold a flamingo or a mourning dove and gripping the bird in its arms while sitting on the edge of the rectangular swimming pool, he would pluck the feather out of the trembling bird like a hot water bottle. One feather at a time. Its peak would peck him, but he had already pre-tied it with one yellow rubberband.
When he was done with the mourning dove, he would go inside, inside his mother’s bedroom. A queen mattress filled with waddling, flying birds: junco, chickadee, blue jay, cardinal, crow, red-winged blackbird, ruby-throated hummingbird, house sparrow, robin, woodpecker. All kinds and all over North America and some rare species. Feces littered the down duck comforter. And, strong, curvy, sharp talons tearing at the fabric of the down cover. Aviary chaos shapes the landscape of his young childhood. He snuck into her bedroom. She was sleeping insomniacally under the deep duck cover. Like a senator who couldn’t get a bill to be voted in her party’s favor. And, pulled a blue jay amongst a messy throng of birds and seeds. He muted the bird with a rubberband, tucked it under his arm and walked across the kitchen island, across the living room, and outside where he squatted down at the end of the swimming’s rectangular length and began to pluck its feathers and discarding them into the pool.
He whistled while he plucked, thinking of Robert Frost. He [sonically] imagined, and imagined removing the letter “r” from his name so that once in a while after he completed a full whistle, he would, in sotto voce, whispered to the featherless blue jay, “Obet Fost. That is your new name. I named you after Robert Frost. And, you are no longer blue.” The naked, featherless bird is released from the young boy’s hand as the bird waddled aimlessly and mindlessly around his mother’s backward, a garden of defoliated fall leaves and headless daffodils, decapitated overnight by a large tornado storm.
He would go inside and again to retrieve another. And another. He spent his afternoon enslaving all of his mother’s birds. Are these the birds of America? he asked quietly like a young philosopher to himself. He continued to take the bird’s freedom, plucking its feathers out with his small strong fingers, one by one until late into the evening, just before dusk had fallen while the swimming pool became a waterbed of birds’ fathers.
This is where I come in. I am his mother’s lover and I have been holding my breath under the feather-laden swimming pool for ten hours. I am not dead, just very prune and an expert at snorkeling. When the son comes into the house from plucking all the birds, I climb out of the swimming pool, dragging feathers and snorkeling gears with me: fins, snorkel mask, wetsuit, oxygen tank. In the dark outside, I strip naked. Gears and all. The wetsuit clings to my body like the skin of a fig. My exposed nubile bodice is like a moon in the half-twilight of Wisconsin. The water has been almost hypothermic cold, but I am used to it. I am used to swimming in ice. I have trained my body like Dutchman Wim Hof. I may have been him in another life.
I re-adjust his mother’s patio pool chaise lounge and lie down on it. I lie there for about fifteen minutes and then I realized I am more thrilled about being closer to the mulched, wet grass, the dewy, cold grass of Fall than his mother’s weather-worn lounge so I roll myself off the thing and time like the wind passes through my body like hands through feathers. I doze in and out of sleep. It’s early in the morning when I come to, hovering above me is the young son and his white mother. Their faces, a puzzle of indistinguishable hell. And, when I lifted up my head to gaze down the length of my body, I notice: my pubic is bald, cleanly balded, seed and hair cleaned. In the ten hours of my nocturnal nap, it had brazilian-waxed by the hairless, incarcerated, featherless, naked birds’s beaks and discarded it into the swimming pool.
I slept through it all. How I think to myself? Gazing at my reflection in the mirror. I hold a comb in my right hand through rote memorization, routine. An eyebrow-less monk in the mirror reflects back at me. Her face is severe and harsh, almost like an alien, unhuman.