A heart like a bird’s nest
Mr. Spy is up very early. He is heading to Boston to interview someone about something so he can write about it later. I am lying in bed in the dark listening to the foghorns. They are an archaic and mournful sound, like the sound of a lonely mammoth or a very depressed tuba. And it always seems a bit miraculous to hear them from my bed. My room is tiny and the window is tall and narrow. Its bottom half is full of an air conditioner and the top looks into an air shaft. It is a dark and cozy room filled with soft things. It is not the sort of room where you want to spend all day, so I tend to feel sleepy just walking into it.
Some days there is just one foghorn, but on days like this there are many, in a surprising variety of pitches and tones, but all long and mellow and low. I only know what day it is like because of the horns. It is one in which I am surely justified in my failure to peel myself out of bed and pour myself into my running clothes. The foghorns tell me not to bother. The foghorns tell me that the weather is bad and I might as well get some extra sleep.
I am drifting in and out of consciousness. Somewhere someone’s clock radio goes off and I hear a few bars of a song. The words to “Sugar pie, honey bunch,” running round and round my head threaten to rouse me, but the foghorns pull me back to a slower pace and I drift off again. I am thinking of a birdcage, hanging, unoccupied, from the ceiling. But there is no birdcage. It’s really the birdcage painted on my bedside lamp that I’m thinking of. But there is no birdcage there either, nor even a lamp. The lamp has a painting of a bird but it isn’t on my table. It was on my table as a child. Now it is hundreds of miles away in a closet at my parents’ house. But still in Dylan Thomas’s “close and holy darkness” there looms a birdcage. What could it be? I think of birds flying in and out, for the door is open. I begin to count them, but they are too fast and I have to concentrate and then another round of foghorns. The birds dissolve and there are only my own heavy-lidded eyes and solitary woolly mammoths, skating soberly down the East River, each playing a euphonium.