A row of pigeons nestle on a streetlight, all in a line like muddy popcorn on a string – a dumpy Christmas decoration. From the office window they look warm in the cold fog. The whole scene would be better with snow, but the snow hasn't come yet and the cold damp reigns in mist over the season.
The pigeons are greeted by a friend who jumps into a small gap in the ranks, rustling his wet feathers and nodding to his mates. One large and grizzled pigeon on the sloping arm of the streetlight takes off. Perhaps there is a pigeon rule for the polite number of cooing friends per streetlight. I'd like to meet whoever spends their life trying to figure that out.
The traffic grinds past below the pigeons. In typical fashion, I am at the office past rush hour. The pigeons look down on the traffic like cameras, judging the poor taste of lonely commuters, unloading on all the Range Rovers, glad to be out in the weather and happy together instead of cramped in traffic and large cars alone.
I am stuck halfway up the stairs staring out the office window at a back alley, a streetlight, and traffic, halfway between the snack I just grabbed and my desk. Instead of finishing the stairs, I am finishing pigeon thoughts to myself, lamely pretending the pigeons are sizing me up from their damp perch.
The stairwell door opens below me and I start, taking my eyes off the birds and my feet up the stairs. Perhaps the birds will sit on my shoulders now, cooing their haiku into my ears as I work, encouraging me with small reminders of my insignificant workaholic flailings, reminding me to change my shirt tonight, to look up, to wonder.
Originally appeared in Nature Writing