Sunday, February 6, 2011

Clove

My mind registers every ounce of resistive force imposed into my ankle as I depress the clutch pedal and slowly roll over the speed bump marking the entrance of my apartment complex.

The aroma of my recently extinguished kretek clings in the chilled air inside the vehicle.

As I round the corner of a nearby unit and pass over another speed bump, I decide to leave the windows down and drive once more around the complex to allow the smell to dissipate further.

I pass over one more bump and step on the accelerator more firmly than before.

The acceleration, although faint, feels good in my chest.

The small bridge to the visitor parking lot approaches on the left.

I survey the lot from the corner of my eye as I prepare to swing the vehicle onto the asphalt connector.

No signs of movement.

Good.

A clean run.

Gripping the wheel tightly, I quickly turn it to the left and shift down to second gear.

As I prepare to release the clutch and stomp open the throttle, I catch a glimpse of something that brings the whole process to a figurative screeching halt.

On the handrail of the bridge was perched an owl.

This encounter marks the second time in my entire life that I have seen an owl outside of a zoo.

My adrenaline-fueled concentration was immediately broken, and my feet released both of the pedals without hesitation.

I had already passed the owl by the time my body reacted, and I slowly guided my vehicle off of the bridge and into the parking lot, turning my head just in time to see the owl leap off of the banister and take flight into the air.

I assumed at this point that I had missed my chance at a closer look and prepared to resume my trip through the lot, but as I did so, the bird swept its awkward frame up vertically into the air and alighted upon a nearby streetlight.

I pulled diagonally into an open region of parking spaces and firmly set my foot on the brake.

Light classical music poured out of the speakers around me as I stared up at the creature.

It sat on the lamp post, upright and perfectly still aside from the constant movements of its head.

It was clearly surveying its surroundings; looking for something…likely its dinner.

I settled into my seat at an angle that allowed me a clear view of the owl, intent on watching the large bird until something interesting happened.

Surely, the bird knew that I was there.

I had passed within inches of it on the bridge and was now sitting below staring up at it through an open window.

Several times, the owl turned its head and stared straight down at me with its large, ominous eyes for several long seconds at a time, but then would simply look away, unfazed by my presence.

I understood; I wouldn’t be afraid of me, either.

I sat there for several more minutes, hoping to witness the beautiful animal’s wingspan once more before retiring to my room for the evening.

But the owl simply continued to look around, waiting patiently for an opportunity to enact whatever operation it had been planning atop that streetlight.

I waited and waited until the sudden illumination of my gasoline warning light inspired me to give up.

Heaving a sigh of unsatisfied desire, I shifted the transmission into reverse, rending my gaze from my feathered acquaintance.

As I pulled away from the owl and around to my usual parking space in front of my building, I realized that, at least for a moment, I was calm.

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