When we met, you were chasing a chicken down the street just outside the Bronx Zoo. You were wearing hoops and strappy heels. A plain black headwrap kept curls out of your face. You were huffing and puffing, alternating between sweet-talking the stubborn hen and cursing her out.
I herded the chicken back toward you, away from the street, flapping my arms. You knew just where to grab her, firmly but it didn’t seem to hurt. I assumed she was your chicken.
“Thanks,” you said. Some of your hair had slipped out and framed that face I already knew I could love.
“Hey!” you called to a man in uniform walking past the Zoo’s service gate. “You lost a chicken!” You held up the hen, who’d been pacified in your grasp.
The Zoo worker shook his head. “We don’t keep chickens!”
Your eyes narrowed like they always do when you think someone’s lying to you. “Okay, but you’re a zoo so...you should be able to help this chicken.”
He rolled his eyes. “Girl, I don’t have time for this. Call animal control—it’s not my problem.”
You muttered under your breath. I caught, “...your problem, motherfucker.” Then you turned that intensity on me. “Can you do me a favor?”
I would’ve done anything for you, beautiful chicken woman.
“Keep a lookout?”
I followed you down Southern Boulevard along the Zoo’s fence until you stopped. You looked up and down the street and I did, too. Then, in one smooth motion, you tossed the chicken into the air. I chewed off my lipstick watching. The hen squawked and beat her wings, sailing up and up and right over the barbed wire.
I looked it up later. If she was lucky, she was found by someone from the Zoo’s health center.
“Thanks again,” you said.
You looked like you were about to leave and I couldn’t let that happen, couldn’t have you disappearing into the city maybe never to be seen again. “Wait,” I said. “I can’t commit a reverse chicken heist and not even know the name of my partner-in-crime.”
You smiled at me and that smile carried me for weeks. Even when I found out I’d failed orgo again and wouldn’t be able to graduate on time. Even when they cut my hours at the shop and I ate donuts out of the dumpster so that I could save what little money I had just to buy you a drink, to cover our covers, to get you flowers.
One afternoon on my way to see you, I spotted pictures of the hen on a poster stapled to a phone pole near campus. She was somebody’s pet and her name was Amelia Egghart. I didn’t even think about telling you. I tore down the poster and ripped it up.
Isn’t it okay to keep some truths to yourself if the story’s better the other way around? Isn’t it better this way—where you were the hero and I was your sidekick? I can still see the arc Amelia Egghart traced up and up, leaving your slender fingers. The way your nails flashed red (a “power color,” you’ve said) against the green of the Zoo beyond. I didn’t know a chicken could fly that high or fall so graceful.