When I Met a Guardian

wren-watercolor-alison-fennell

I was on the MAX train. At one of the stops, a tiny songbird, about the size of a silver dollar, flew into the car and starting flying around in a panic. An older, sort of troubled-looking black woman began to panic, screaming, “It’s going to bite me! Those birds! It’s happened before! Someone’s got to get that bird off this bus!” I mean, it might sound funny on paper, but she was in fear for her life. She was literally screaming in horror.

In the seat in front of her was a young black dude, maybe my age, handsome, dreadlocked. He started talking to her. His tone and overall demeanor were extremely calming and gentle.

“It can’t hurt you,” he said.

What a wonderful thing to say: so matter-of-fact. Look at this tiny bird. Look at you. It can’t hurt you.

“It’s going to bite me!” she screamed. “Someone’s got to get it off this bus!” She kept referring to the train as a bus.

“I will,” he said. “When we get to the stop.”

“It’s gonna hurt you! You don’t know them birds!”

“Birds ain’t gonna hurt me,” he said. “They know me. I’m a Guardian. Birds know a Guardian when they see one.”

He said this like it was common knowledge. It’s an odd thing to say, but when he said it, it didn’t seem odd. It was matter-of-fact. Simple. True. And I could hear the capital “G.”

The lady continued her panicked rants about the evils that birds had done to her. In the meantime, this man just looked relaxed, and kept his eyes on the frightened little creature, which had perched on one of the hand-rails.

The mechanical announcer informed us that we were almost at the Rose Quarter. He got up, slowly, and approached this little bird that had been so fast, so scared. He spoke softly, “I ain’t gonna hurt you, baby,” and he gently wrapped his hands around it.

Just at that moment, the train stopped. The doors opened. He puts his arms out the door, uncurled his hands, and the freed songbird flew into the open sky.

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