It was somewhat insane for me to think the unusual out of the ordinary occurrence would ever happen in a common place. This place for me was a bench outside the local store, and as a kid almost every day during the summer, I would observe – chewing on candy and/or opening packages of baseball cards and enjoying periods of time that featured solitude and respite away from the everyday school regimen during summer vacation.
Among all those things I observed, there was a particular place that always seemed to draw my attention. Across the street from where I sat in front of this store was a bus stop with a bench for those waiting for the next public conveyance. It was definitely not a place where one would expect anything ethereal or macabre. I would observe this place as I sat on the store bench on nearly a daily basis and notice the personnel who would gather in expectation of a municipal transport to appear and take them to their destinations.
I would wonder from time to time where these people were going; sometimes I would connect their destinations to how they looked or dressed. A woman that I noticed regularly was adorned in nursing attire and was most likely going to the local hospital or a doctor’s office. Another regular was a younger man dressed in paint-stained coveralls that was probably going to his current assignment in the construction industry. Women with shopping bags, younger passengers with back packs and books (summer school scholars – poor chumps), and those with no discernable connection to destination were the regulars that I detected from my investigative position of observation.
I noticed on occasion that a raven-esque bird, a crow, I think, would settle on the back of the bench once the bus pulled away with these passengers. Aloof, alone, and perched there, ‘dark and dreary’ – after the morning rush to get to work – almost every day. It often seemed to be looking at me, and the more I noticed it, the more its invasive and inquisitive gaze seemed to take place. There was an odd dichotomy of existence in this place at that time of the day when most are gone to work because of a mysterious quiet both engaging yet disturbing – the type of disturbance that exists with calm and paranoia.
Calm is quiet and pleasing but sometimes quiet masks the unknown, the feared, the element of unforeseen danger and despair which leads to paranoia and abject fear. I know, this is a pretty extreme assessment for a nearly daily detection of a black bird. Why was it that this ‘ungainly fowl’ would inspire such intrigue and dread? Edgar Allan Poe’s descriptions that inspire mystery resonate in connection with these sightings.
It became an obsession with me though as I actually would look for this somewhat frightful appearance after the bus would pull away, and the more I anticipated this, the more often it would reappear, sometimes with a mocking “Caw!” as it stared at me, almost as if to ask, “What? What will you do about it?” I had no answer to what I interpreted was a sardonic inquisition. I instead would stare back with inquisitive and precipitated pallor, anticipating perilous revelation, but receiving none – just an about-face departure, and as it looked over its shoulder, it consistently revealed an imperious exit as it withdrew.
I began to wonder why these occurrences took place, and why now I was drawn magnetically to this place on a daily basis even though there was an element of dread that existed in that space with that bird. Was this association in some way a warning or message to me or someone I knew? Did this mysterious connection take place for an ethereal reason? It wasn’t that I lost sleep over this, but it did ignite a somewhat morbid curiosity that was compelling. Why this captivating allure to hang with an unfriendly black bird on a daily basis?
A culmination to this daily experience came to be one sunny summer day. Again I observed the bus pull away from in front of the bench, and on cue, the raven settled once more on its customary position on the back of this bench. I was too young and uneducated to recognize the likelihood of this type of a nearly daily occurrence was anywhere from slim to not happening at all, but our shared existence of this common space once again transpired. Sitting, chewing on licorice, and gazing at this ‘ebony bird’, my trance-like stare was interrupted as two men exited the front of the store in what seemed like an urgent hurry, and got into the red convertible parked in front of the store.
As they entered their vehicle, the crow raised up with wings spread hopping up and down, and began to caw in maniacal fashion and then fly after the convertible that spun out and headed down the road. I saw the license plate as it sped away, the crow flying above it, looking back at me while in flight and cawing hysterically. I was freaked but noticed the license plate read RVN 13. As I viewed this, I heard some loud moaning from inside the store.
I went through the front door to see the old man who owned the store holding the back of his head, a trickle of blood streaming down the back of his neck. The drawer to the cash register was open and he was getting his phone to call the cops. He was giving a description of the two men who had just robbed and assaulted him, and the car they were driving, but I heard him say “I did not see the License number.”
I grabbed a pencil that was on the counter and wrote the license number down on a napkin and gave it to him. A wide eyed look of gratitude was evident on his face as he gave the digits to the cops on the phone. I guess they connected this car with another robbery at a gas station that had taken place about a half an hour before. I heard that the robbers were apprehended a few hours later and that they were both well known to local authorities.
The weird thing is I never saw that bird again, “nevermore,” but this association inspired confused thoughts about this connection and even though its presence turned out to be positive, I never felt a collegial link to this bird who seemed to not only require, but just tolerate my presence.