Last night, I had a dream. I put some people I loved on a bus, and then I boarded the bus with them. They were the ones who were leaving, yet they disembarked before I did. I continued to ride, thinking to myself that I was going in the opposite direction of home and then figuring it didn’t matter.
When I arrived home (by way of that magical dream logic), I was startled to find there were two birds in the house — a finch and a magpie. I felt somehow that I had to rescue the finch. For some reason, the magpie didn’t matter. In fact, it seemed to be a possible source of danger. I scooped up the finch and carried it to the window where it hopped around in my hands for a few seconds before flying away.
When I woke up, I shook B awake as usual and made the coffee while he showered. When we carried it into the living room to have a seat on the sofa, I started. There, on the cushion of the sofa where I usually sit, was a small feather.
“What is that?” I asked B, thinking my sleep-fogged mind was just creating associations.
“털이네,” he responded, using a word in Korean that can mean both “feather” and “fur”. We have two cats, and I usually only ever hear that word used to mean “fur”.
“It’s not fur! It’s obviously not fur…”
“아니 깃털, 깃털이야.” No, a bird’s feather, it’s a feather.
“That is so bizarre. I had a dream last night that there was a bird in the house.”
Just then, our cat Vera tore off across the living room and into the kitchen. Due to where B was sitting, he saw it before I did.
“아 씨발! 버드! 버드! 진짜로 버드네!” Fuck, bird! Bird! It really is a bird!
I grabbed Vera and tossed her into the bathroom, closing the door behind me, while my husband, who never swears, shouted every word in the book at the top of his lungs in the kitchen, quickly descending into a state of total panic and taking cover as if the finch were a grenade hurtling toward him every time it took flight.
It was acting injured, which isn’t unusual for a bird that’s trapped inside. It’s usually minor bang-ups from crashing into walls and general disorientation. I used to work at a school on the side of a mountain where all of the screenless windows were kept open throughout spring and summer. Magpies, usually, would occasionally wander inside, and I admit they frightened me, but I would do what I had to to get them back out to safety, usually by way of a broom and good timing. This finch, though, was so small and clearly terrified. Who knew how long Vera had been chasing it around the house?
I approached it a few times, but it fluttered away as soon as I got near. I shouted at B to calm the 씨발 down — his shouting and wild flouncing around the room were not helping. He moved to the other side of the kitchen and did his best to hold still while I finally got near enough to the finch to scoop it up in my hands. It didn’t fight me. When I got to the window, I held it outside carefully cupped in both palms. It just sat there staring at me.
“I guess I’m going to have to take it out– I can’t just drop it. What if it’s hurt and it can’t fly?”
B: “다첬어? 다첬어? IS IT SICK?”
“I don’t know. I’ll just carry it out to the fro–”
And then it flew away.
“무섭네…” Scary, B said.
“It’s just a little bird. It wasn’t going to hurt you. For god’s sake.”
“아니, 리지. 무당이야, 무당.” No, you. Shaman, you’re a shaman.
My rational mind knows that I must have somehow sensed the bird while I was sleeping, possibly even briefly opened my eyes, saw it and didn’t remember, which was the conclusion B eventually came to. But it still felt like it meant something. It’s not the only dream like that I’ve ever had. Far from it.
When you grow up in a Southern Baptist home, you are inevitably taught about prophets and prophesy, which makes it less scary (for both you and your parents) when you have dreams like that or when you intuit things so specific that it’s like you’re reading people’s minds. I won’t go into the details, because not all of it is mine to tell, but there were points when I dreamed and intuited things that changed the entire course of our family and home life, specifically things about my father. I still sometimes get spooked by my dreams and certain gut feelings and have to call home to make sure everything’s alright. When my grandfather came down with cancer for the last time, although it was in early stages yet, as soon as I heard his voice over the phone, I knew he was going to die, and I knew he knew he was going to die.
A lot of it can be attributed to being able to read the people I love really well, which is the part that spooks B. He can say, “hi” in the wrong tone of voice, and I’ll know he’s hiding something.
The point is, it’s almost always negative when it’s concrete, but occasionally there’s an incident that’s more abstract, like this morning. I don’t know what it means that I dreamed about the bird, and then the bird was there, but it felt like a sign, an auspicious omen.
So I spent the morning shelling peas over coffee and cleaning greens for soup while wondering what good thing might be coming my way.