Rupie (Eurasian Collared Dove, 20 yrs. old)
The door to my studio was open one afternoon and I entered with some trepidation. Earlier in the day, I had seen two marginal, drunken guys outside my building, leaning against the brick walls, matching each other’s blubbering conversation. The complexity of the icy wires and vegetation, seemed to project further confusion onto the situation. I moved past the guys, trying to ignore their unexpected taunts.
Now....... I was hoping I would not see the pair follow me inside the studio. It would be a delicate matter trying to figure out how to eject them.
As I climbed the stairs, I heard Rupie, my Mourning Dove, letting out his little chuckle, a sound that is surprisingly similar to a human chuckle. Rupie likes to make the sound when he lands, after flying in a broad Arc around the scattered tools, displacing the air with his broad wings, sending dust and various loose studio waste in similar flight, powdering my work surfaces with ever-changing textures and small visual interests.
Rupie on one of his favorite perches, top of the drill press
Kal-El was sitting on my drawing stool, with Rupie perched on his wrist, picking at the small pool of millet seeds in the Steel Man’s hand. I was confident at that moment, I had nothing to worry about with the drunks outside. The Man of Steel had a soft spot for vagrants, and he most likely had persuaded them to perform a task for him............somewhere across town.
I walked around to face him.
“Hi Kal-El, I’m glad you are making yourself at home these past few weeks.”
I used to be perturbed and impatient at Kal-El’s brazen entry into my space, but I had grown used to it. I wanted to know so much about the nature of his powers, but his heightened humility usually kept the conversations hovering around things other than himself. I hoped he would open up with time.
“I saw through the door……….Rupie needed water, and some seed. We are friends you know.”
He was smiling and from the way he gave attention to Rupie, it was easy to see how he was smitten with my little dove. He always uses Rupie as an excuse to enter my studio, but it’s really OK. With the attention Kal-El gives the bird, I can’t help but have warm feelings towards him.
“I really like it when you call me by my true Kryptonian name....no one else does.......Hey, I found a place to stay. It’s a little problematic, but it is free and it is local!”
I knew he had been evicted from his “Fortress of Solitude”, and he was having a hard time finding a landlord who valued his powers. It was puzzling to me how few people appreciated his abilities, especially during these difficult economic times.
He had a photograph with him, and he held it up for me to see.
The picture showed a familiar industrial structure. It was a concrete mixing station, newly built, set back from Grove Street, a short distance from Downtown.
He was smiling.
“I have an arrangement with the management of the concrete company. If I mix the batches by hand on Thursdays, I can stay for free. I have a small room. It saves them 10 to 20% on electricity costs. I just need a small space to sit and think, maybe have a guest occasionally.”
I pictured Kal-El putting his whole body in a spinning motion, like a fast turbine, lowering himself into a huge vat of powder and water, mixing tons of wet, sticky aggregate and lime based compounds. It couldn’t be a very pleasant job.
Why didn't he just ask for a small space in my studio? ....I remembered he was super shy about asking for anything from his friends.
“I’ve been thinking about our little Rupie here a great deal lately.”
His tone was sad, and he held Rupie cupped in his super gentle hands. Our little dove cooed softly, seeming to coil and snuggle into the warm, fleshy cavern. After a few seconds, Rupie was relaxed and slent.
My friend raised his head and he eyed the ceiling. He seemed to search for words that could originate in the mortal world, a world that he loved so dearly.
“I know Rupie lost his mate several years back, and it reminded me of Lois.”
His feelings were carrying him into an intimacy he rarely shared with any mortal. He wanted to talk about the love of his life, who was now lost to him.
“I loved Lois, though I understood I could never consummate the relationship in a manner that would have made us both whole. Had I touched her in the way she needed to be joined with me, I would have surely ravaged her body unintentionally. To be wholly entwined would have meant death for her………..and before I could persuade some of the best minds I knew, to find a solution to all of this, time carried on, she grew old, and I lost her.”
I saw this immortal soul immersed in profound sadness. He held Rupie to his face, and then turned to me.
“It is such a sweet irony. I have saved planets from annihilation, made rivers reverse course to resurrect cities and dying forests. I have sat with heads of state, offering vision and deeds to sweep away the horrors of oppression. I have delivered babies in the throes of untenable circumstances………all of this…..too many things to record in multitudinous volumes, yet I find these conversations with this little guy
the most profound, glorious moments I have been given.”
“Given?” I asked, “By what, or by whom?”
“I consider my permission to live and thrive on this planet to be a gift, and all attendant experiences are a bequest from humanity.”
His eyes searched the ceiling again. “You know, Lois gave me only two mementos during all the years we were friends. Although they are merely cheap advertisements, I treasure them. I thought you might like to keep them here, so I mounted them on your wall. When I lost her, I foolishly stayed clear of her family. They sought me, but my grief was deep and I never called on them.”
I was curious to see the keepsakes……….. They were advertisements from the 1930’s, printed on small fans. They were charming. I liked them right away……they reminded me of my parent’s best years…long before I came along.
“Superman, these images make me nostalgic for a time long before I was born.”
He was finally smiling. “Nostalgia is a trait that binds your generations, one to another. I finally came to understand it……..with supreme, sustaining amazement.”
I searched his great, handsome face, trying to read the subtle emotions.
“Kal-El, you are so profoundly sad most of the time…is there no joy for you…no humor?”
He waited until a loud truck rolled by outside.
“I met a mystic who live in the Himalayas. He wrote a secret for me in Sanskrit. I translated it and tattooed it onto my palm. I will show you.”
He held his hand open for me to see. I grasped it and pulled it closer. His great hand was hard, like metal, yet warm. Like his entire body, it glowed with a strange light.
I strained to see the inscription.
“I have to get my magnifier. The text is so tiny.”
I felt the absurdity of this enter my whole being… My convulsive laughter made it hard to recover my breath. I guess this was super-humor.
“My brother, rest his soul, used to call me that!”
“I know G………I know.”
The mood became lighter, as he held in the magnificent force of his powerful laughter. I was seeing a rare smile, and it seemed all unfulfilled beings, and objects, both living and inanimate, shared his joy... Time stopped in that luminous moment.
After we settled back to our calmer demeanor, he slid another photograph towards me; it was a strange image, printed on conventional drawing paper. He saw my confusion and he explained:
“I was making a capture of one of your sculptures, and Rupie flew by just at the instant my memory recorded the image. I don’t think you are aware of this, but with my type of vision, I can capture an image in the world and etch it onto a flat surface, like this plain drawing paper. I use my heat vision. I love the coincidence of Rupie’s flight. I thought you might like this.”
Rupie looked like a Ghost Bird. The image was compelling…even more so considering the photographer was the “Man of Steel."
“Thank you Kal-El! I don’t ever remember you being artistically inclined.”
“Are you kidding? I have fashioned huge eco-systems, carried mountains across continents, and raised gigantic monuments in Antarctica. What could one call that?”
Everything he said bolstered my curiosity. “I have questions for you…they are so numerous, I can never decide where to start.”
I decided at that point that a list of my questions could give him reason to stick around, relieving him of the burden of feeling like an intruder.
He shot me a knowing smile and said, “We will have a great deal of time for questions.”
He fell silent for a moment, then he said, “I wanted to tell you something because I’m compelled to see you safely ensconced within the shell of your own history.”
I felt his words move slowly and methodically around the room. It reminded me of being in the slow-motion presence of poets...the ones who call nature to account for their sadness. My curiosity caused my throat to burn slightly…my heart pounded.
“Do you remember when your brother had that terrible accident in Northern Michigan? He said he remembered going into a high-speed skid, and the next thing he knew, he was standing several yards away from his mangled vehicle. I know the police and paramedics asked him where the driver of the car had gone to, because both doors were crushed in so far they touched… He had been alone.”
He waited until the astonishment on my face began to fade.
“Your brother was important for the sake of many others, so I intervened.”
“You,…how is...it was you. But there are others, all over the Earth. Why him? Why my brother?” The metallic feeling of blood rush and hysteria was burning my skin. Feeling faint, I sat down.
“I have a formula from which I act. Some are saved, others translate to different forms. With your brother, there was 90% probability he would perform greater acts in the interests of humanity.”
He was serious again, having leveled his words with the precision of a scientist.
“My brother won the dice throw?! What about the Towers, Kennedy, all the sorrows?”
There was a nagging quality of indifference to this the idea of choosing which lives to save, based on a mathematic formula; regardless of it’s practice by this living miracle…I was silent now.
“G, I cannot save everyone…is it not just... to exercise compassionate precedence, within my limitations? I suffer greatly in this, and strive to move ever faster...... to save more than the time before…….and before that. It is complicated beyond anything you and your brethren can imagine…I was at the edge of your galaxy when the towers fell…forgive ME...”
The profound sadness had returned to him and I began to see the impossibility of his doing all good works, everywhere. Many human needs would not be answered, even under his graceful stewardship. I glanced his way, and his blue, immortal eyes were moist. I wondered if his teardrops were salty like human tears.
Outside, the mourning world’s color reflected his sorrow...
“Give up the concrete factory crap, you will stay here……..as long as you like.”
He didn’t respond. He seemed lost in contemplation again..... Then he delivered another thought.
“I hope you will forgive me for observing you many times…….I’ve found
a small way to relieve my sorrow... I know Rupie is 20 years old…
he use to have a beautiful mate named Beatrice. They were skittish when
you played with them, but when you whistled a sweet tune, they calmed
down. I know Beatrice died 3 years ago and Rupie was alone...
I thought of low flying birds,…. ahead of storms...
I am so grateful to you. When I whistle his song, Rupie flies to my
shoulder and leans against my neck, sometimes making his little chuckle,
or his soothing cooing sound...
I wondered to myself one day, if he ever mistook the drops falling from
my eyes for the rain outside his window...”