Caged Bird

2008 – Colette Hosmer
From my position on the worn, overstuffed chair I can see outside the window and through the bars of my second story balcony to a wall of similar Chinese apartments beyond the narrow alleyway. A neighbor across the way has an identical balcony only the rusted bars of her confine support a few potted plants, and the door to their kitchen is flanked by two red Spring Festival banners with gold letters – another banner is pasted horizontally across the top.  A caged bird flutter-jumps from its perch to the top of the cage, to the perch, to the bottom of the cage, to its perch.  

The woman of the house is slight, middle aged, and silent.  Neatly bobbed hair frames her round, expressionless face.   Sometimes I see her sweeping the balcony floor or watering her two plants, while her husband watches television at a deafening volume.   A small window reveals images shouting from the screen at 1 to 2 second intervals.  The TV is always on and he is always sitting in front of it – his presence exposed by clouds of cigarette smoke during the day and the glowing tips of cigarettes at night.

I look up from my book as the woman appears on her terrace.   I begin to pay attention as she reaches for the birdcage.  Leaning forward in my chair, I see her slide her hand through the tiny door.  In one quick movement her hand appears   outside the bars of her own cage, and I watch as the bird catches flight.

A lovely smile animates her face as she puts her hands together and bows in the direction of the freed bird.