When I was in middle school, I watched from the back seat as my mom pumped gas into her car. I saw her pause, then gasp as a dove landed on the hood of her Chevy. It looked at her and tilted its head back and forth and then flew away. She got back in the driver’s seat and vowed never to forget that moment, that it meant something, that she could breathe again.
Pigeons and doves belong to the same family, Columbidae. We’ve convinced ourselves that doves represent a message from God, but pass pigeons on every street corner and feel nothing. Instead of giving thanks for a divine presence, we shoo them away with our pastry wielding hands and keep walking.
Any given day in 2018, if I saw a Maryland license plate, it suddenly made sense to consider calling up my ex again, guilt ridden, to apologize for being born only to meet her and waste her time (and clearly nothing else). Whenever I check my phone and see three consecutive numbers plastered on the home screen clock, somehow, despite the odds, I know I’m on the right path. When the leaves on the trees outside of my second story apartment are turned up like cupped hands, it’s about to rain.
A few mornings ago, on my walk to Rittenhouse, I passed at least a dozen pigeons. I felt anger traveling from my feet to my brain as I stomped across hot concrete and melted gum. That particular morning, I desperately needed a sign. Sipping on my too-strong coffee, I felt frenzied - dare I say deranged. There are no doves here, I thought, but there are countless pigeons. Why can’t we let them validate us? What have we been DOING our entire lives to not let the pigeons call the shots?! I looked at them, ruffled and hungry, and willed them to give me something, anything.
One of the grey-green birds looked up at me as I sat down on a bench. I decided this would be the one to assign meaning to my life. Staring into its dark, glassy eyes, I projected all of my insecurities and doubts and excitement and time sensitive anxieties into its brain. In that moment, I swear we were infinite, that symbolic dove that was not a dove. Was God going to speak through its tiny, sharp beak and teach me how to get my life together? Would I feel a chill rush through my body, a knowing? Would I stand like my mother, frozen, seized with the realization that every speed bump up until this point made sense?
It hopped toward me and said, Dude, chill out. Everything will be okay, bro, as if it were just lying on a beach in SoCal, not at the same grumpy, anxiety-ridden Philadelphia park I was suffering in. I rolled my eyes and groaned, Why can’t you just tell me everything will be okay? But the pigeon said nothing. It just looked at my begging, fearful hands and blinked.
The truth is - pigeons don’t know shit. They just want the crumbs of the croissant you’re holding; to bop around the concrete sidewalks with their Columbide family friends until the sun goes down. The truth is - the only ones we can turn to for answers are ourselves. No dove or number sequence or license plate can tell you something you don’t already know. The truth is - sometimes we just need time, no matter how pissed off, or impatient, or passionate we are about figuring it out. We just have to tend to our own broken, multicolored wings until they’re ready to fly. Kind of like doves, but not really.