One day, Mia woke up with a pigeon entangled in her hair. How it got there, she didn’t know. What she did know was that it wasn’t going anywhere. First she tried shooing it away; it protested vehemently. With furiously flapping wings and raking pigeon claws, that dug into the depth of her brains. For weeks, the metallic rhythm of beating wings, like doors swinging on their hinges, rang in her ears. Then she tried luring it away with grains. Though the bird showed interest, every time she moved her palm away from her head, the pigeon pecked at her face and her eyes until she left the feed right next to it on her head. So there wasn't too much luring, but just feeding. The pigeon pecked on her head, till her dreams grew sore and her thoughts were punctuated with a pecking rhythm. Then she tried cutting her hair; the hairdresser wasn’t amused and even less so, when at the end of it all, all she had to show were bird pecks and a teary customer with a pigeon still entangled in her hair. Very bad for business, indeed. As for the pigeon, it was in such ill humour that for three days, Mia walked with a ball of iridescent grey feathers on her head. Then she tried shaving it all. The pigeon took to the bald head like as if it were an egg. It roosted and crooned pigeon-lullabies that unnerved her lecturers and got her thrown out of movie halls.
Her boyfriend googled ‘how to get rid of a pigeon tangled in your hair’, tried many, suggested more and finally, left her for a girl with less avian features and who didn’t stand out so much. She was the last among her friends to lose her virginity. An artistically inclined youth who found the situation “intriguing” and the pigeon’s unblinking curious stare “coitally exciting”. He left her a few months later claiming “too weird, man”; his artistic sensibilities for once, abandoning his vocabulary. The truth is, the pigeon, who disliked his pretensions took his mouth, that was open in an ecstatic O, for a toilet and went for it when she was on top. His right brain clearly missed the creative irony of the situation.
At the supermarket, the pigeon cocked its head out interrogatively; its beady eyes gleaming red and golden in the painful tungsten. Her dreams were crowded by feathers and pigeon moans. Her face grew flushed from constantly being aware; her lips pursed with the effort of bracing herself for pigeon-excitement. Her neck grew long and stiff from sleeping funny. She had to hold her head unusually high to be comfortable. They called her “Steeple”. First cruelly and then condescendingly and then with grudging, well-disguised envy. She was different. And that was sexy. The pigeon was horribly unconcerned about her wardrobe. It left merciless trails of pigeon shit on all her fit-in clothes. Her little black dress got the worst of it. Before she knew it, she’d stopped trying to fit in.
One day Mia woke up unconcerned about the pigeon tangled in her hair. And then, it became the concern of the people around her. Her parents fretted over whether the phenomenon would deter good matrimonial proposals in the future. Even if the pigeon flew away by then or died, people would still remember her as the girl who had a pigeon on her head. Her neighbours tutted and sighed over such a misfortune, and brought her amulets blessed by an army of gods. There were attempts to make something of a goddess or saint out of her; but wielding a pigeon didn’t merit too much of a devotional following, that died quickly enough. Then there were whispers of exorcism. The pigeon once went into ecstatic moans in church, interrupting a fervent sermon on abstinence from the pleasures of the flesh during the lent. Many candles went missing that day.
What was it like before the pigeon became a part of her? What was it like before she became such an idiom; such a metaphor; such a form of speech? When she was just a girl, trying to find her place in the world; in the fourth row; in the middle ground; in the cafeteria? What was it like? Mia couldn’t quite remember. All she knew is that she couldn’t go back to being any thing else. Uncertainty. Certainty. The girl who woke up with a pigeon in her hair. A winged creature. Just like them angels.