This Is Not a Story About a Pigeon
A pigeon is hopping about in the corridor. “Piccione, guarda!” I’ve managed to peck at the seeds of comments dropped by bewildered students. Yes, it is. Somewhat crippled, yet demonstrating enough energy to circle restlessly around, deserving every now and then attention of the flock of first-years, second-years, third-years, Bachelors of Arts, Commerce, Architecture and to-be Masters. The situation reminds me of a Slovak man living for a considerable period of time in Italy who told me that it is by the cheekbones that you can recognize whether a woman is an Italian or a Slav. I wonder whether the pigeon knows I am a Slovak, and I spontaneously touch one of my cheekbones.
The pigeon is just another crumb of aura which surrounds the town I am currently studying in. We put on that aura on the day of our arrival; three earth dwellers, fosters of alien culture – we put that aura on the moment we got off a fine 738 Boeing at Rome Ciampino airport and headed for our cool Erasmus destination (and we have not taken it off yet). Cool. Yeah, surprisingly it was not much warmer there than in our sweet 700km-to-the-north February Bratislava.
But to get back to the pigeon. After I saw it that first time, I wanted to dismiss it. Nonetheless, it wanted to stay there. When a week later I entered Lecture Room 19, it was there hopping in between rows of auditorium folding chairs, making itself visible only sporadically, thus managing to remain secret in the room for the whole sixty-minute lecture on modern Italian literature. And maaany other lectures after that one - another week later it was still there, this time drawing the attention of two Italian students, both female (as literature lectures are predestined to stir up interest in few male gourmets). I had never before spoken to any of my fellow university students of the Italian kind. I had chosen, involuntarily to a degree, the most improbable means of communication here, in the land of ever-lasting cooing – silence. Not the wisest choice, I must admit. Even at home it usually causes much trouble and misunderstanding. Only few are those who can enjoy the mood of silence such as few are those who can get a scent of splendour by speaking.
So my silence here had caused that nobody at university had talked to me for two months. A teacher asked me my name once, and many times I asked students in corridors for necessary information or we exchanged smiles and glances in a classroom, but never did we exchange words of common personal interest. Thus simple words have become valuable goods, a precious commodity that I often had taken for granted in the corridors and classrooms at home. Finally now, at the moment of the pigeon’s revelation, I felt my delicate wings strong enough to unfold and bring me to the air damp with some fresh confidentiality and I saw myself saying something to the two girls; I told them the nothing I knew about the pigeon that was enough to prompt one of the girls to take pity on it, stand up and chase the pigeon up the terraced floor and out through the door at the back of the auditorium. Having done this, the girl closed the glass door and retook her seat behind my back. And everyone was happy: the pigeon because it was finally set free, the Literature girl because she had helped it out and me because I finally talked to somebody in Italian, and therefore had some hope that our Slovak-Italian relations would improve.
The picture down here is not the room of the prodigious schizophrenic John Nash from A Beautiful Mind:
The university I am attending now has several peculiarities which have been a constant object of my deep pondering. Like, the walls, which look like nowhere else in my world: there is an advertisement on every square centimetre. Look again. Actually, look how many times you wish. Imagine all these sheets fluttering in the cool breeze of Mediterranean spring…
These are not yellow metal Cyclops staring at human perplexity (Do not reproach me, please, for using this distant figure of screech in time and place but it so much fits each of the plenty of doors scattered with cool ardour around this serene building). It is a nonsensical Labyrinth of classrooms and offices with usually no written names or names as ambiguous as a neutral smile; corridors with no logical organisation yet discovered.
You were supposed to know this place before this (hi)story comes to an end. As for me, I must wrap myself in a silken blanket because evening has flown down upon my nest and colours of heaven are leaving me.
I was standing as usual at Classroom 19 waiting for Modern Italian Literature sipping an espresso from a nearby coffee vending machine. At my arrival the machine had made hot milk with sugar instead of cappuccino for me. Since then we’d been on good terms. The crippled pigeon unexpectedly appeared in front of me and the name of his breed resounded in the air. Why, my Lord, had this creature not remained out to breathe something better than university air, why hadn’t it called other pigeons to help it or that sort of thing? It even had enough power to take wing scaring some students a bit and making me smile indulgently. My lesson was about to start then, so I entered the auditorium, placed myself in my pigeon-hole and listened to the lecture.
One more time I saw the pigeon in the university building. It must have struggled to free from the underground floor, and not without success; it must have lived on students’ droppings to survive that long, it had already been staying for about a month. Except being crippled, it was now on the ground floor, appearing rather fit, because it took wing even this time, almost hitting an astonished student and managed to fly far enough to sweep from my sight and definitely approached a revolving door leading out of the enchanted building.
Besides illnesses, pigeons also carry messages. They wear rings, and they also ring people so that they can identify them later. Many times sons of man strut around with their head up and chest out to get the attention of a herd of white or grey doves.
A two-footed, two-winged clay bird will never be able to fly; the most complete paralysis will not prevent a man from flying above the kingdoms of this earth and heavens of people’s imagination.
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