344 East 134th Street Apt 6c
Bronx, New York 10454
July 21, 2001
Have you ever been inside one of those elegant apartment buildings on the Upper West Side of Manhattan?
Last Monday I interviewed for a job as a free-lance editor. When I got to the client’s door there was no bell, so I knocked. There was no answer. He might have been watching me through the peephole. I heard the sound of a deadbolt snapping back into its mechanism, and then the door opened. The man appeared with a grayness, like a prisoner in need of a change of air. He suggested I follow him down the hall into his office. When offered a chair, I said I would rather stand. I asked him if he wrote for a living. "Sometimes," he answered, and then lit a cigarette.
I stepped backwards onto a pile of crumpled papers, my shoe leaving an imprint across a number of sheets. The man turned his head, exhaled, and then flicked some ash onto a saucer. I bent down, intending to straighten the papers but, instead, picked up a sheet, and read in a whisper.
"I took the bird by its neck and squeezed hard. Its breath came in short bursts. A heat from its swelling breast warmed my palm. Its death was repulsive."
The man smiled and said that he had an interest in ornithology that he wrote about flight strategies in his free time. "Actually," he continued, "I’m an engineer, specializing in invisible fencing for border territories."
This is a city where crossroads lead to dead ends. This is a city of electronic signals that cause birds in flight to lose direction.