A seagull was in my bedroom last night, sobbing away. He was there about 40 minutes, the length of time I talked on the phone to my splendid friend Ann. The painful thing to acknowledge is that I thought he was in her room, or maybe out on her street. “No,” she said. “I don’t think so.”
We kept talking above his cries—caw caw—as though it were normal. Or at least I thought it was normal. Ann never stooped to saying something like, “Are you okay?” We were talking about her fine article on the artist Earl Jones in 15 Bytes and Earl’s range of conversation—everything from Josef Albers to relativity, Karl Marx, LeConte Stewart, back to Albers and tomato seeds and Earl’s show at Phillips Gallery and on to the 1933 Chevy truck Earl is restoring and how much I miss Lurch, my 1959 GMC pickup and how I cried when I sold it and the guy from Wyoming almost couldn’t make himself take it. All the time the bleeping seagull is crying.
“Maybe I’ll step out on the street and see if that bird is okay,” I say. “I’ll hold on,” Ann’s says. She has a calming voice. I step out into the quiet night, a full moon hanging improbably in the sky. Then I’m back on the phone discussing the Doerr interview in 15 Bytes. The g–damned bird is back. I will say to my credit that at no time did I think of murdering the little squawker.
We talk about the Four Sisters photograph series that was in the New York Times Magazine this week. “The concept,” I say. “To photograph those same four sisters standing in the same order over forty years. As you turn the pages, you see the hand of time fall across their faces, their shoulders. And you stand there thinking that is what 75 looks like.
I’ll be 75 in a few days. Another splendid friend, Alice, used the word intrepid once in describing me. Still another friend who is older than me by a decade said, “The word triumph will come to mind one of these days.”
I said to Ann, “Wait a minute, I think . . . the bird is in this room.” I reach up and hit the off button on my Brookstone radio—you know the one. You can pick a little sound mix of seagull or ocean surf or songbird.