The scene: a hotel room in an undisclosed location, occupied by the author and a gentleman friend who shall remain nameless.
Oh alright, let’s call him Fred.
It’s morning. I think. I know it’s light, because even with my eyes wide shut I can sense sunlight filtering through the gauzy curtains that cover the balcony doors. I have no idea what time it is, but I’m pretty sure it’s waaaaay too soon to think about getting up. It was a late night. I’m happy to just lay (lie?) there next to another warm body.
Said warm body had had the kindness to not snore the preceding night. To what that blessing can be attributed, I know not. I had learned long ago, in dealing with this particular man, to accept small miracles with gratitude and grace. Truth be told, I often times didn’t mind his snoring. It was rhythmical and downright musical at times. Sometimes it made me laugh, because it sounded like he was composing tunes via his nasal passages. Which beat the hell out of other ways his body could be making music while I was essentially trapped under the covers with it.
Through my I-may-rise-but-I-refuse-to-shine haze, I hear Fred’s voice. Deeper than usual, as it always is immediately upon waking. A voice I loved, no matter what it said.
It said, “I hear a chicken.”
I don’t have a memory like a steel trap, but I was fairly certain he’d never uttered this particular phrase in bed before.
This, of course, made absolutely no sense. Any random phrase from Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody would have made more sense. I assumed he was talking in his sleep and ignored it.
A few steady breaths later, he said, “there it is again.” His tone was more staccato; he definitely was not sleep-talking.
He got out of bed like a man on a mission, and pulled on an ugly white hotel-issued robe – a wise move since he was headed out the doors to the balcony.
From outside, he said, more resolutely, “There’s a bloody chicken out here.”
Now, I didn’t know what he thought he was seeing, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t a chicken. We were five floors up. And while the hotel wasn’t in the midst of a metropolis, I hadn’t noticed any neighboring chicken farms.
I laughed out loud; it was my polite laugh, the one I used when I thought somebody was completely wrong but I didn’t want to be so rude as to say so.
He knew me well enough to know it was my I-think-you’re-looneytunes laugh. He’d always read me eerily well. I couldn’t get much past him, and certainly not my polite laugh, not even this soon after waking.
A moment later he was dragging me by the hand, throwing the other ugly white hotel-issued bathrobe at me and towing me out the doors to the balcony. He stopped me at the precise mark and turned my body to the precise viewing angle.
There was a freakin’ chicken on the railing of the balcony of the suite next door. It was either a chicken or some other kind of bird that looked like a chicken, talked like a chicken and walked like a chicken. Brown and red and feathered and clucking.
I looked up. There was one more floor above us and then the roof. I looked down. There was a café next to the hotel with annoyingly chipper looking people having breakfast. I saw no way a chicken could have gotten up here. But there it was.
I turned around and looked at Fred. He was standing with both hands on his hips, head cocked slightly and the most glorious, sleep-tousled wavy masses of hair cascading all to one side. He had hair that people would have killed for. One brow was raised defiantly as he regarded me with his very best “I told you so” look.
I was about to comment when his gaze shifted back to the chicken and he exclaimed, “It’s going to jump!”
I whirled back ‘round in time to see the chicken leap. It plummeted five floors in a flutter of feathers and squawking, bounced off the edge of a café patio umbrella and landed smack dab in the middle of somebody’s breakfast. People screamed and scattered, dishes flew, and the chicken high-tailed it off the table and scurried away.
Faces turned upward, and we realized to our horror that those people thought we had dropped a chicken bomb on them. We ran inside and recoiled from the balcony before the angry villagers could return fire. Thank goodness we had at least been wearing the bathrobes. I could imagine the headline: Naked Couple Fowls Breakfast of Unsuspecting Diners.
Later, we were having a leisurely lunch in a restaurant in the same hotel.
A waiter walked by and served the people at the next table a delicious looking, lavishly garnished meal of poultry and pasta.
A few moments passed with no sound other than the delicate, civilized clinking of silverware.
Then, without looking up, and with totally deadpan delivery, Fred said, “Do you suppose that’s him?”
He raised his eyes to meet mine, smiled a mischievous smile and we laughed the way two people do when they are the only two people in the world who know what the joke is. It was a silly, irreverent moment that remains as vivid in my mind now, years after, as when it happened.
I realized much later that the chicken on the balcony was a metaphor for many things in life; things that defy explanation, things that make no sense, things that simply shouldn’t be but that irrefutably just ARE.
The unexplained doesn't fit comfortably into my personal paradigm box. I prefer to wrap everything up with a tidy, logical explanation. But life isn’t like that. Things that shouldn’t, can’t possibly, happen, do. Sometimes you just have to call a chicken a chicken, and let it go.
You never know when you will discover the chickens on the balconies of your life. The most you can hope for is that when you do, you'll have had the presence of mind to pull on that ugly white hotel-issued bathrobe first.