By Varun U. Shetty

You’re in Mumbai riding on the back of your friend's bike, and you notice the neighborhood stray dog trying to swallow a bird, its wing sticking out of its slobbering mouth, so you rescue the wet, shocked bird, take it to a quiet corner in the building compound; you feed it and give it water, but it doesn't move much other than a few steps, and no one in the building really cares about a broken pigeon but you, and that makes you wonder why people call them rats with wings, probably because they don't know that pigeons are the closest they'll ever get to knowing living dinosaurs, probably because they have forgotten that pigeons delivered messages for thousands of years, that these birds can find their home from hundreds of miles away while you are 8000 miles from where you were born, wondering if you know where you will fly to, at the end of your life, but still you are in disbelief that people are not impressed by the ultraviolet fluorescent scarves accenting their gray coats, the elegance in their stance, or how they don't see the brilliance in their anxious take-offs and stylish landings--your mind wanders and you don't remember if it was a single day or several, but you remember that the pigeon disappeared one day, that you and your friend were convinced that it was either that evil cat, or the grumpy gardener, and now you remember the other blind pigeon you tried to save but failed--you were confident that this time, it was that damn cat; and here come the others you have failed, like the love birds you killed unintentionally, or the Brahmini kite that fell out of the sky due to a heat stroke and died later, in your home, or that kitten on the side of the street with a deformed pelvis, or that puppy run over by a car, its head split open, and you realize that pigeons are not only a symbol of your personal failure to save animals but also the world's failure to see beauty.

Varun U. Shetty is a writer and intensivist from Mumbai, currently living in Shaker Hts., OH, whose work has appeared in The Wire, Olney Magazine, Literary Cleveland’s Breaking the Silence, Voices From the Edge online anthologies, The Bangalore Review, and Goa Today.

Photo by Jason Thayer, who found this pigeon shot dead, like seven or eight years ago when he was living in Chicago.

By Sonya Huber

That which does not kill you makes you shudder, makes you flinch at sudden movements and tall men and deep voices and the smell of hard alcohol coming through someone’s skin and anything hovering over your left shoulder, makes you startle; makes you sit on the kitchen floor crying with a cup of water, fishing the bottle of Klonopin out of your shoulder bag’s front pocket as your throat closes and you say to your windpipe it’s just panic, with your laptop open on your thighs writing about Septimus from Mrs. Dalloway, makes you tell yourself how wrong it is to write about him in this kind of mood which is more of an infestation or a torrent than a feeling; makes you worry your teenage son will come in and see you on the floor crying and then makes you think you’re a bad mom merely because of the PTSD when of course other parents have it but also of course each of them is eating Cheetos in the garage and crying into the orange dust or running their knees into patella fragments or drinking in the laundry room or working until their eyes ache, all to blast it all away; makes you imagine a toaster trying through willpower alone to rewire itself and stop burning the toast; makes you tell yourself that you’re so broken you will need to be cremated at death because these molecules should not find themselves into another human body so soon, they need to be rocks and clouds for an aeon first, cleansed with bracing winds; makes you wish for the kind of mask other adults have crafted but that you took apart and threw away so you could breathe but now of course you are a child, a flower without skin; makes you cry before meetings because any hint of manipulation or shaming or aggression just takes you apart; makes you hate yourself for not being the kind of adult with a squint and a swagger and Teflon coating; makes you long for retirement; makes you know with certainty that you do not want to live forever because the string of frights get tangled and knotted into clumps and those clumps, not atoms, are the string theory that holds your ball of ache together.

Sonya Huber is a nonfiction writer whose books include the new Supremely Tiny Acts: A Memoir of a Day and Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System, and she tweets a lot of true nonsense at @sonyahuber and she thinks you're great for getting through the day.

Photo by Sonya Huber.