The hot and dry wind of August is always the worst. I remember my feet were seven years old and a revolution of ants had dug tiny holes in the form of parallel circles right on my heels. It was hypnotic how the skin was enslaved to the little blind creatures. I sat outside, under the ‘Goodbye Room’ window. Allie was with her new parents inside and was in the process of saying goodbye to the matrons who were smiling in perfect harmony. I didn’t want to say goodbye to Allie, she was mean to me. Instead I sat outside feeling the tight slaps of the August wind on my face. I was preoccupied with the tiny bird in front of me. It was chirping, running hysterically as it tried to balance its small body against the fury of the wind. I suspected it was injured and thus couldn’t fly. It kept going round and round in a circle, trying to figure out what was happening. I just sat there, staring at the poor creature, comparing my own misery with the misery of the baby bird.
One day, the head matron of our orphanage was cleaning the ‘Goodbye Room’. I was there under the pretense of helping her and was moving the chairs around to keep up the facade. I was actually sulking and wasn’t making any real effort to hide it. She was putting up bright, smiling pictures of all the good and adopted children that had found loving homes, the pride of her orphanage. I made a loud grunting noise to show my disdain.
“You know, my dear, if you would just try to show some empathy for others and less pity for yourself, you will see how your life is not the absolute worst.”
That went against everything I believed. I mean, how can she even suggest that? If I don’t have self pity then what do I have? All my seven years on this earth and most of them in this place and she tells me to let go of the one thing that makes it all bearable. I responded with another grunt to drive my point home.
She didn’t say anything right then. I felt a sense of relief and smirked to myself. I had won.
After about an hour or so when the room was properly clean and all the children were happily beaming on the wall. The head matron turned to me and said, “My dear, I forgot to say, last week after little Allie left with her new family, I found a poor little baby bird outside. The poor thing was dead and I noticed one of her wings was injured. I wish I had seen the poor baby earlier, I could’ve easily fixed her wing so she could fly again.
Since you were outside, I was wondering if you saw the little bird?”
I stared at her. I couldn’t move my face or eyes. It was like I was frozen but my face was melting. I had of course seen the baby bird. I had sat around as the poor creature cried desperately, trying to fight the hard and scorching winds with its tiny body. I had sat around wallowing in self pity as I reached the conclusion that my own misery was greater than that of the little bird, before I walked away and forgot all about it.
I didn’t answer the head matron and she didn’t press me. She never brought the subject up again and I never forgot it. She had won.