At first I thought that I thought the neighborhood I recently moved to with my roommate and cat (both smaller than me and furry) was bizarre (pronounced in a Harrison Ford-esque “beeeeeeezaaaaahh”) because of my small town upbringing and every other single subsequent living experience I’ve had in my previous fifty-two years of so-called life, but in the four months since I said, “Well, the rent is pretty cheap,” until now, I’ve seen things and heard things that no man I know would say are totally normal.
Around my neighborhood is a man I call “The Whistler.” He makes magic music through his tightly pursed lips, sharing melodies and soaring tunes that have to get out of his heart through his mouth and be shared with at least everyone within a three-block radius who is outside or has a window open. While he whistles more than is condusive to my sanity, he whistles well, and doing what you do well, no matter how annoying, is something I respect.
But, okay, yeah, “The Whistler” has natural talent, but whoever is constantly honking a clown horn while walking up and down the street worries me a little. “The Honker” has just gotta sell that ice cream he pushes in his mini-freezer cart, but I hear that honking horn sound at all hours day and night, and I just know there is potential for horrible things to happen. I don’t think he’s a clown, due to his lack of makeup, but the incessant honking is a little unsettling, and for some reason, I find it threatening.
Then there is the lady who shrieks what, to me, sounds like “TAMALES LOS GATOS!” from morning to evening. (Cat tamales? I hope and pray I mishear that every single time she yells it for hours on end every single day.) She’s got an unsettling way about her, but she’s doing a job, and I will probably have one of those tamales once I can track the shrill, yelling voice to a person and confirm I’m simply mishearing the “gatos” part of her battle cry. She gives some quirk to the neighborhood, but despite possibly not only making tamales out of cats but also just openly advertising it for everyone within earshot (at least two miles) to hear, I don’t fear for my cat’s life in a world where she exists.
The gentleman the roommate has dubbed “The Belcher” is no threat to anything other than my ears and my waking nightmares and my clearly outmoded sense of decorum in polite society. His rumbling burps, at times consistent and clear, keeping perfect time like a gassy metronome, are gross and should probably be examined by a physician, but I don’t think he’s going to hurt me or my cat. Unless his belching is coming from cat tamales, but again, I’m pretty sure I’m simply mishearing the shrieking lady. I just have to be. Anyway, every time The Belcher belches, a piece of me dies. There are a lot of pieces, though, so it should be fine.
Humans aside for a moment, there are also the tomcats who prowl around the apartment, just waiting for someone to leave a door open and fall asleep unawares. Our main security guard is a cat our building manager named Rocky. He’s been through things I hope my cat has never seen and will make sure she never sees for as long as I have her (parting with her either due to one of our deaths, probably mine, or just when I’m sick of her jerkitude and give her to a nice person who doesn’t know any better). There are fights at night, horrible cat sounds, and he usually hisses at me on the stairs when I walk down them from my second story apartment castle in the polluted sky. He’s a tough customer.
While I personally don’t fear the cats due to my human size, no matter how curious my kitty cat might be of the outside world, no matter how much she just stares out the window, no matter how close she gets to the open door when I enter my apartment of broken dreams… she will never be an indoor/outdoor cat. Her experience in the out of doors, from the moment she was abandoned to me to the day I die long before her of old age and/or/probably burritos, will only be what she sees of the outside via a window or her dreaded kitty carrier.
Yes, my cat was found on the streets by the shelter, so, yes, I know she’s a scrapper. She’s a survivor. Still, I don’t want her to encounter Rocky or one of his ilk. If it were to happen, I think she could walk away from the encounter, but it’d probably change her in negative ways. The tomcats are terrifying for me as the owner of a sweet little cat who is just a dick to me sixty to seventy percent of the time. They are the main reason I don’t want her going outside, followed distantly by the Tamales los gatos lady who…c’mon, I’m mishearing that, right?
This brings me, as fate decided long ago it must, to the namesake of this writing: “The Pigeon Man.”
Occasionally sounds would be heard from the windows of my apartment, and I couldn’t tell if they were from next-door or some secret basement of my building that I rented before ever seeing the neighborhood at night at first. It sometimes seemed like an animal, perhaps a wild turkey (entirely plausible in this area somehow), but other times there was a distinctly human quality to the noises. Either a trapped, scared animal, or a disturbed human.
Then yesterday, while watching TV instead of writing, I saw what looked like a pigeon dancing on the windowsill of the building next door, not more than three inches away, it often seems, from my living room window. But, no, the pigeon was not dancing of its own volition. There were human hands holding its wings out, moving it around like a puppet. Is that a thing pigeon aficionados do? Does Bert do this while Ernie turns a blind eye?
I suddenly realized that the part-turkey, part-human noises I’d been hearing were that of a man talking to pigeons. Maybe the pigeons enjoy it, but I immediately pictured a Wild Bill situation with pigeons instead of ladies. It got dark and bleak in my worried head as I saw this man’s hands sticking out his window, making the pigeon dance as he tried to communicate via strange mouth sounds.
Basically, if either my roommate or kitty or myself die of blunt force trauma to the head, my gut will say that said dead person or cat somehow upset the pigeon man. A man who can make a pigeon dance while talking to it in a human version of its native tongue is capable of things. So many things.
And lo The Whistler whistled.
And The Honker honked.
And the Tamales Lady yelled.
And The Belcher, he did belch.
And Rocky hissed, ready for a fight to the death or worse.
And The Pigeon Man… The Pigeon Man communicated to pigeons while teaching them new dance moves.
These are the people of my neighborhood. These are my people. And I am theirs now. What they call me, if they call me anything, I will likely never know… unless The Belcher has a blog or something.