"You don't know what you do to me.
You don't know what you do to me.
I don't know what I want to be."
When You Sleep
He sat on the bottom of the bed, television remote in his hand, blankets and sheets piled under his thighs. He scanned through the channels. Stopped on the local news because when he visited somewhere new, Phil liked to see how people saw themselves.
A reporter stood in front of the camera. Behind her was a small ranch house in the woods. Rusted pickup in the driveway.
She spoke in that stilted way young newspeople do when they try to emulate their journalistic heroes. She was years from the networks, starting every sentence with the name of the anchor back at the studio and he imagined she hadn't seen wars yet. Hadn't seen the arson dead. Hadn't been sent to the charred remains of the domestic violence. Hadn't had to shove the microphone under the chin of the firefighter, sobbing uncontrollably as he exhumed the children's bodies. She had no idea how badly life would wreck her.
"Two eagles, Ron," she said.
"That's interesting, Sondra," Ron said offscreen, and Phil knew it wasn't and that Ron didn't think so.
They cut to a video tape of the homeowner. The man was a building contractor. It said so under his head shot. Time had abraded his face, and he smiled as if it took a lot of energy. He did it anyway. Pointed to the ground beside his rusted truck, tires nearly bald, smiling as if he'd have to rest for hours, later.
"They just fell from the sky," said the man. The camera zoomed on two raptors locked in what appeared to be mortal combat. Wings flapping impotently against the oil-stained concrete. Each talon gripping to prevent the other from flying.
Bald eagles. Yellow mandibles locked onto white neck feathers.
"They just fell here," said the man, and the camera panned over the birds, apparently fighting to get away from each other. But Phil saw what Sondra was too unconcerned to note. In a pause in one's flapping, the other let go for a moment and they were free of each other. Then realizing, they reached out to each other, and tore into each other again.
Jennifer came out of the bathroom smelling damp and flowery, head canted to her shoulder while she brushed the cascade of her hair from the back.
"We should have brought our own shampoo, or we should have stayed at a place that had better stuff," she said, and then seeing Phil enraptured, "What's that?"
"Two eagles," he said, motioned with the remote.
"They're going to kill each other," said the contractor on tape.
"And then later the police came," Sondra the reporter said in narration. Cut to a Bellingham cop tossing a blanket over the birds, who ignored him, locked in their struggle.
Jennifer stopped brushing. She sat down on the crumpled bed linens, her hip and thigh against his. Phil liked the way it reminded him of how warm she was in the dark. Knew that she'd only have to look at him a certain way, touch him, say a few words, and they'd make love again, and she'd have to shower again and they'd miss their dinner reservations.
"God save us from idiots," Jennifer said. "You'd think these people would know better."
Something small and bright escaped his stomach. He slid an arm around her. Wrapped his fingers around her waist.
"Slow news day in Bellingham," he said. "All they got is birds fighting on the ground. Need some crime in this city."
"They're mating," Jennifer said. "That's the way eagles do it. I've seen them in the sky over Seward."
She put down the brush. She was thinking what she was thinking and it came through her eyes. Made him want to kiss her and they would miss their reservation.
Jennifer said, "They collide in mid-air. It happens fast. They separate before they hit the ground, usually. Sometimes they don't."
He tensed his bicep. Pulled her hip into his. She put her head on his shoulder. He put down the remote.
"Pretty crummy for the girl," Phil said. "You're flying along looking for a rodent to munch, then -- whack -- some guy smashes into you, rapes you, and you barely have time to get your wings spread before you drop onto the roof of a parked car or into a lake."
Then she looked at him that way. Then she touched him that way she told him was because he was everything she wanted from the moment she realized all human beings are born needing another. And he couldn't keep his other hand away from her. And they couldn't stop from turning into each other. And they couldn't stop getting closer until they were separated only by a layer of cotton and each other's exhalation. Then they gave up and simply breathed each other's breath.
"Not terrible," she said, closing her eyes. Between kisses, "Falling... hidden in wings."
And the ground came up.
"Waited for hours.
Hours turned to days.
Days turned to years.
I'm still here."