I used to live in a motel that smelled like meth and had one other notable feature beyond just being the place where hope had rolled under the fridge. There were peacocks. I don’t mean that there were pictures of peacocks all around or that there was some kind of gaudy bird motif in the architecture. No. There were just big angry beautiful feather-monsters, and they’d just go wherever they wanted. I think there were three of them. Their own gaudy gang.
The peacocks mostly lived out back in a dirt lot in which adults parked, children played, and my brother and I threw big sticks at each other like javelins. We would be out in a little patch of trees talking about Pokemon or something, and then among the muted greens and browns of the trees would be the incongruous shimmer of a deep blue followed by a faint rustling, a raptor shuffling through its domain.
The fact that I spent more time in my childhood looking for fallen peacock feathers than most would consider healthy is not important. What is important is the peacock’s beauty does not even remotely extend to the sound it makes. Everyone knew the sound. I would be sitting in our little room, doing my homework on the floor or imagining a leaf was a person with a whole leaf family it had left behind because of the wanton plucking of a bored child, and then, piercing the silence like an air horn at a funeral, they would come.
The weird warbling shriek of a peacock is like an over-enthusiastic acquaintance who sees you at a bus stop before you see them, but then you hear them, you hear the cry, a series of viciously loud, high pitched “HEY! HEY! HEYOOORA”
I fucking hated it.
I wanted to eat those birds just to get them to shut up. I wanted to make a cape from their feathers, run into the parking lot and scream back at them while looking like the flamboyant specter of their most unwholesome terrors.
I didn’t eat the birds. We eventually moved away. I never learned why there were peacocks wandering around a small town in the middle of Arizona. I learned to forget their cry. I had to look up a video of it just to confirm I was remembering it correctly. I’d put that time in my life behind me, the time when I lived somewhere so unpleasant with such strange, displaced fauna. I’ve grown. New memories have replaced the haunting cry of those shrieking shimmery raptors.
But there’s this guy. This… horrible man.
He lives in an apartment across from mine. And he’s the nicest guy in the world. He’s an absolute fountain of kindness. I think he offers to help every new tenant. A really stellar person. A shining example of a vibrant, kind individual, a real colorful soul. He is also the loudest person I have ever met, though I didn’t need to meet him because I could get an accurate sense of his personality from 300 feet away. The peacocks found me.
I call him Loud Fred, and I hear him through my window every day. Every apartment complex seems to have one, but this Loud Fred is uniquely potent. His voice carries and is weirdly abrasive. He is relentlessly enthusiastic and has almost no sense of personal space. I prefer people to stand about 40 feet from me. Loud Fred gets right up to you. I see him when I check the mail, walk the dog, go to work, and when I see him, he waits until he’s right next to me, and then he releases his harsh, joyous greeting.
I cannot escape him. I might be sitting in bed writing or imagining my pen is a person and isn’t disappointed in me, and then he comes bludgeoning my halcyon morning like the birds I learned to hate, this fucking guy sees someone, and he’s just got to say hi, or offer to help with something, or ask about the weather. It doesn’t matter because even when I’m sitting in my room, he echoes inside, and maybe he’s just saying “hi,” but I hear “HEY! HEY! HEYOOORA,” and I am left with a difficult question: do I ignore him, talk to him, or hunt him?