The Pelican

December 25, 2011
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I saw the pelican on a Tuesday; it was white, with an odd assortment of grey feathers. On any other pelican this coat would have looked slightly worn out and colourless, but the effect on that one was an almost imperfect regality. It flew with sharp eyes past my window – shut against the spraying rain and stench of fish – dodging the low-voltage street lights with an eloquence foreign to its species. It took an over-arching dive at the turn for the pier, and flew low down over the dock until there was nothing under it except ocean: deep, fickle ocean.
I turned away from the white-trimmed window with an uncommon amount of agitation, and felt, with out looking, for a hollow porcelain egg that lay rest in a cup poised artistically on the grand piano. The egg, just like the trim on the window, just like the exterior of the house, just like my starched blouse, was perfectly white, flawless. Staring deliberately out the doorway, opposite the window, I held the egg tighter and tighter in my hand, until little fissures appeared in the surface. And then, all at once, the egg exploded in a million shards, no longer white, as they were dotted with my blood.
My hands were on the fire, the porcelain drawing fine lines of blood all across my palms. When the continuous plenishing of blood on my hands became too much, I wiped them over my perfect blouse. With out looking back, I walked out the door towards the front hall, imperfect like the pelican.

In Thoghm, people painted their houses white, books were well-kept and unopened, and the a respective distant was kept between the inhabitants. Main street was one-sided, the north-facing side bordering the harbor.
I find the harbor to be the only asset of Thoghm. Whenever I look at it, it gives me a deep ache in my gut, a feeling of possibility and failure. The thing about the water is it’s always a grey color, though not really grey, always looking fresh as though it just rained, which is generally has.
When my husband came home early on Tuesday I was wearing a white apron over a clean shirt. He walked in and fixed himself two fingers of scotch in his study before coming out to greet me, “Peg,” he said, nodding.
“Margaret,” I corrected too quietly for him to catch.
His shoes were still on – he never took off his shoes inside. I used to go barefoot everywhere. Glancing down at my feet, I saw the ugly black heels framing my conservative hose. For all I knew, I didn’t have toes, so long had I been wearing the apparel of my husband’s wife.
I didn’t reply immediately, walking slowly around the kitchen instead, collecting the things I’d need for dinner. After a long moment had passed, my husband turned around and walked out of the spacious kitchen into the dark, Victorian hall. “I saw a pelican today,” I said after him, my voice raised slightly to be heard over the distance.
This time it was he who didn’t respond. I heard his gate falter for a moment, considering, before he walked noiselessly into the library on the carpet and clicked the door shut.

As will so often happen, things are noticed more when they aren’t there then when they are, and such was the case on that Tuesday evening. My husband took his normal place at the head of the table, facing away from the window. I was at his right hand side, a nonthreatening, gentle accessory.
“I found the egg in a strange place when I went into the library today, Peg,” my husband began.
He continued on as if I hadn’t spoken, “I wouldn’t think much of it, except it wasn’t on the piano.”
“How strange.” I looked him straight in in eye, my tone cold.
“I’m sure you do find it strange, Peggy.”
“Margaret. Where was it instead?”
A pulsing vein in his neck was a deep purple, although his eyes were disarmingly calm, “Well, Peg –”
“– Margaret,” I said, cutting in.
“– It was all over the –”. He voice, as noiseless as his eyes, stopped for a moment, before he continued, “It was all over the floor. That’s where.”
Without loosing his gaze, I said “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
And then it was over. He jumped up from his seat, spraying dishes everywhere– his eyes were no longer so calm, “What’s wrong with you Peg? What happened? Who the hell are you to walk around my house, my house, acting like you own the place? You aren’t the woman I married, Peg. You’re nothing but a disgraceful wretch of a woman. Barely a woman.” He was spraying saliva across the table, and his eyes were wild.
Through his entire speech, I had remained motionless. At this point, I moved my hand to my cheek, delicately wiped a fleck of spit away from under my eye, and rose.
“I’ll be taking my dinner in my room, I believe.” I said, a walked out of the room.

That night I lay still in the library, the shattered egg looking fresh and raw in the moonlight, my face damp from silent, emotionless tears. After hours, when the moon was at its highest, and without reason other than to distance myself from my husband, I rose. Barefoot, in matching white pajamas made of light-cotton fabric, I was a specter in the night. I walked down the stunted Main street, the wet, cold pave stones soothing my feet.
On that walk I stepped out of my way to dabble in puddles.
When I got to the dock, I turned, and walked on the worn wood, onwards, until there was no connection between me and the quiet town that lay behind me. I settled myself down of the pier, my feet trailing in the water, my hand caressing the barnacles.
It was July, though the air was cold and moist. A slight breeze pushed my thin top to my breast, sending a chill through my frame. The night was so silent the lapping of ocean against the dock seemed to be the only sound in the world, next to the quiet though abrasive ringing in my ears. The width of the dock was diminutive enough for me to spread my arms and grab ahold of both short pilings. I sat there, leaning out over the dark body of nameless expanse, held in place by my firm hold on the wood. Looking out on the horizon, the water and sky indistinguishable from each other in the night, I opened my eyes to the wind.
And then I let myself fall.
At first the temperature of the water shocked me so much I gasped in mouthfuls of water, and it was instinct to fight to the top. But the current was strong, and I realized, in a moment, that I didn’t have to fight. I was a specter in the water, ebbing and flowing with purpose and dignity.
As the burning in my lungs soared, it became the burning in my hands as well, the salt water exacerbating the myriad of thin fissures in my palm. With these two pains, I wasn’t just in the ocean, I was in the library, I was flying. A dull pounding began in my head, as the searing subsided in my hands, the ache began in my throat. But the pain gave me purpose.
It was just before I lost consciousness, surrendered myself to the harbor forever, that I looked up. The moonlight was bright, but my eyes were hazy. If I can trust myself, though, and I’d like to think I can, the last thing I saw was a proud, regal pelican flying over the ocean and in the sky.

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