The wounded bird appeared out of the blue. I take it in my hands and carry it onto the operation table. I hold the scalpel tightly and clear the wound, pouring water over it. I’m the best of surgeons, but not a veterinary. I call the nurse but she doesn’t answer back. We have a life or death situation here, I yell. She ignores me again.
The bird stops making sounds, or movements. Cold sweat runs down my spine. I push up and down its chest and yell at the little creature, as if it was its own choice to pass out, as if it fell asleep and I only need to wake it up. The poor bird stands still, enduring my efforts, its eyes wide open, staring at me, as if blaming me for my incompetence.
The nurse finally rushes in.
What are you doing, she asks. Stop the nonsense, I tell her. She rolls her eyes like I’m stupid. She urges me to swallow the pill she’s put in my mouth. That’s my job I say, to repair reality, to step in and fix things, when the end seems inevitable. That bird is dying, I yell at her. She seems perplexed at my words. That stupid nurse is so incompetent, she hasn’t noticed the bird yet. I show it to her. It’s still on the table.
She holds the bird in her hands, squeezing all life that was left out of it, and I cry and yell but she doesn’t seem impressed. That useless nurse is killing the bird. Until there is no bird anymore. She’s now holding a piece of cloth in her hands. And she’s my daughter, her eyes blue like her mother’s, her brown hair cut short, the pixie haircut her mother likes. How did I end up in here? My brain is slowly penetrated by oblivion or illusion. Where’s the bird? Where’s my wife? I ask.
She turns around and I see her tears. I wipe her cheek with the back of my hand, and she smiles, but it’s a forced smile, like she’s still sad but wants to hide it. I can’t stand seeing tears on her face. When did I see them again? When she broke up with that boy from school. I’m sure that was the last time. Or was it later? I was standing above her mother’s dead body, a wounded creature who wished to live, a last attempt at resuscitation, but it all happened so fast. I’m a good doctor who’s saved many lives. How did I fail this time? It’s a complex thing, when your loved ones suffer; you suffer along, you may even ache more watching them suffer, yet from a safe place, where you’re safe and sound and slightly relieved you’re not in their shoes. And that complex emotion includes guilt which can’t be easily erased. I’m holding my head between my hands and close my eyes, as if memories will be obliterated if I shut down my senses. My legs are trembling, my heartbeat rises, while this painful reality fades away, like bad dreams fade and I won’t open my eyes before I wake up to a more tolerable version of the world.
It wasn’t your fault, the nurse tells me.
I’ll never forgive myself, I say. But then I see the bird move, then stumble, then spread its wings and fly high in the room and out of the open window, and I feel like a hero, for that’s what heroes do; they repair reality, despite all hardships, defying all rules.
Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist from Athens, Greece. Her work can be found in many journals, such as the Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish Review, the Sunlight Press (Best Small Fictions 2019 nominee), Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn, Ellipsis Zine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Bending Genres, Litro and others.