Doris is afraid of pigeons. The rodent birds of New York City cause the bleached blonde hair of the seemingly fearless black woman to stand on end. How she works as a foot messenger in Manhattan is anyone’s guess; but she somehow manages to steer clear of them, often running to opposite sides of the street to avoid flocks that feed on crumbs scattered by lonely New Yorkers who adore these winged carriers.
“My mother made me watch that movie ‘The Birds’ when I was little. People don’t know that birds can fuck you up like that,” Doris explained one afternoon as we walked up Eighth Avenue on our way to Starbucks where I first introduced Doris to her first “expensive as hell” cup of frozen macchiato. “Let’s walk on this side. I hate those damned things.”
I giggled and tried to explain to Doris that the movie was mere fiction, but the glimmer of Doris’s door-knocker earrings caught my eye as a crumb may move the emotions of a hungry bird, and I followed her as if we were wild geese flying in V formation to our favorite resting place on Friday afternoons.
It seemed Doris was being melodramatic about the birds—she is after all gay friendly. She often uses those gay catch phrases like “honey child” to address me. I never told her I was gay, but I let her assume I’m a queen, even though I never once referred to her as “sista” nor have I told her those earrings are so ’80’s.
I was walking down that same stretch of Eighth Avenue early one morning and noticed that bleached blonde hair several blocks in front of me, even though it was still dark outside. I knew I could catch up with my friend; the crosswalk light had changed and Doris came to a halt alongside a group of other pedestrians. I noticed Doris’s hands flying way up in the air—a sign I know very well—Doris was either cussing someone out, or something had rattled her nerves.
It was then I noticed three pigeons flying above the heads of those waiting for the light to change. “Get the fuck away from me,” Doris screamed. A woman in business attire attempted to move away from Doris, assuming she may be mad, but I soon caught up to the crowd and put my arms around my friend and laughed. “They are not going to hurt you,” I reassured. “Oh, it’s you. Thank God!” she said.
I shared the story with the dispatcher at work. A group of messengers awaiting daily manifests overheard the tale. Most were not surprised at the story I had shared.
Later that afternoon, Doris injured her back on the job. While walking into a building with double glass doors, her backpack got hooked on the first door she had walked through, pulling her back and onto a hard marble floor. I ran into Doris on her way home that day. She explained what had happened. I couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t a pigeon that had grabbed onto that backpack as the light-skinned blonde simply tried to do her job in a town that is so overrun by those damned birds.