Start easy. When you find yourself among those who impose their help, your own wishes something incidental, don’t sit there listening to stories of other mothers who lost children they weren’t prepared to, and who— you know? —seem to be doing rather all right now. Show instead that picture you took of the piece of shit on the sidewalk, the one that looked exactly like a banana down to the boomerang-like curve and ridges, even the stem? Ask if they see the resemblance. Ask if it makes them angry.
If they wonder why it should, explain there’s something wrong with a world in which an animal who didn’t mean to make such precise art, can nevertheless spontaneously create a thing more meaningful than what most people, for all their toil and anxiety, ever make of life.
Should they change the subject by asking how you’re coping with the loss of him, say fuck the birds. Out of the blue, say fuck the birds. Off with their heads, yes, all of them, though you can be specific, you say. Explain that, somehow, this phrase encapsulates it: life, that it gives you such release, such pleasure to fuck the birds, to imagine them dead, strewn, brutalized, blown, bloody, kicked-in like pillows. Such pleasure that sometimes it becomes fuck the lizards, the wasps, and even the earth, which was your own God until, lead astray and seeking flesh, it found your son. Clarify that most of the time just fucking the birds works fine.
They’ll start to fidget, want to get away. Let them. Or did you think they were going to stay, put up with your crazy shit? Someday, they’ll have to think up their own bird breeds, drag their own things through their own mud. But right now, let ‘em go. You’re not a monster and they’re just people, hoarders of being, and wanting, and having, fragile, oblivious to the serious complication of loving perishable matter that does not have a dependable expiration date anywhere on its body.
Now what you need is to “fuck the birds” a few more times. Say it loud, out of context, shout if you have to, paint a picture of birdlife Armageddon until they go, scattered like leaves, no longer your friends, talking amongst themselves about how, even with what’s happened to you, you really have no right. Are they gone? Good. Go ahead and laugh now, if it helps.
Unless, and this is important, you discover one of them in your kitchen, slowly doing your dishes, a blank expression on her face. Her mission, which was, of course, to save you, forgotten. If this happens, you’re to grab a dishrag as she washes and you dry. Tell her you didn’t mean what you said about hating God and wanting to die, or that thing about a bomb making the earth look like something splashed with nail polish the color of your son’s fire truck. Assure her that, of course, it was a joke, a silly joke, you never want to see birds fucked.
I know you’ll do this, not so she’ll be your friend, but because here is someone who needs birds like you needed your son. Like you still need your son. And if you fuck the birds, creating in her even the picture of what that would feel like, then you’ll be no better than God: up on your perch pondering the relative goodness of random days, while below someone loves… something so much, but you took it from her, and went on —happy— to leave her with nothing.
Anjanette Delgado was born in Puerto Rico and writes about heartbreak, displacement, and social justice. The award-winning author of the novels The Heartbreak Pill and The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho, she has written for the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column, Vogue, NPR, HBO, Kenyon Review, Pleiades Mag, the Boston Review, among others. Anjanette is also the editor of Home in Florida: Latinx Writers and the Literature of Uprootedness (University of Florida Press, 2021), chosen by “Poets & Writers” as one of three notable anthologies that year. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University and lives in Miami, Florida, where she is at work on her third novel.