It is snowing; on the windowsill lands a sparrow frigid and starving. I am standing in front of the mirror, fixing my tie into a snug knot at my neck, just like my grandfather taught me as a boy. I fidget with my collar and try to pat down a hair that is sticking up like a cowlick at the crown of my head.

      The sparrow tips his head at me, watching my nervous actions with the interest of someone who wishes he could share in my warm room and lined suit. Today is my wedding day;  my soon-to-be wife chose January, a winter wedding. White snow, white dress, white limousine parked outside our apartment; a clean, white start. Though, I think she chose a winter ceremony partly to keep her sun-loving relatives out of town. I fidget with my collar and cuffs again and the sparrow hops from one edge of the window ledge to the other. The light flaky snow lifts off the wooden sill in short puffs with each movement. His eyes still watch me, and I think he is trying to find the best angle at which to view me; as though I am a painting or a mannequin in a store display.

      I turn away from the mirror and to the window. He stops hopping, stops tilting his head from side to side. We stare at one another. Pausing to assess each other’s situation. He is outside, wings folded tightly against the tiny body. I can see the twig legs shivering; planted as firmly as a bird that light could plant them. And I am inside my bedroom; inside this stiff white collar, green tie, and silver cufflinks. My jacket rests open on the bed, waiting for me to slip inside it too. This little sparrow can fly off at any moment, and I am caged in a room, a suit and tie and the duties of saying ‘I do’ in front of seventy-five moist-eyed friends and family in little more than an hour.

      “How do I look?” I ask him.

      He flaps his wings in response, shaking off the dust of snow that has collected there. How long will he stand there, regarding me with curious, freezing eyes? The morning sky is still dark behind the apartment buildings and a weak light bounces off of the snowflakes that come shimmering down to congregate in the narrow street two stories below my window. The deep blue reflects off of the powder covering the ground. It is a blue-white world today.

      “Is this her ‘something blue?’” I ask the little bird again, thinking of my fiancée’s love of a fresh snowfall.

      This is always the moment she cherishes the most. Standing by a window watching the snow slowly, methodically cover the world like crisp white paper waiting for a story. The day I asked her to marry me last December, it had been a day like this and I had run outside that morning to write my proposal in the snow and then tossed snowballs gently at the window to wake her. 

      The sparrow hops again from one side of the window to the other. He is trying to keep himself warm. Maybe there is a bit of warm air leaking from my thinly insulated windows, and the deep-set panes provide a form of tiny shelter. The birds here are starving. They should have migrated south, but my fiancée says not all birds migrate, and wouldn’t it be a shame to miss their songs four months out of the year? She had hung a bird feeder outside this window, though I was doubtful that anything would ever come to feed from it any day of the year when the downstairs neighbor’s cat is lurking close by.

      But the feeder is missing and this little sparrow is searching for his morning meal. I go to the bottom drawer of my desk, where the other day I saw a bag of bird-feed deposited, half open and leaking sticky seed. Scooping up a handful, I open the window smoothly and the sparrow backs up a bit, but doesn’t fly away.  Instead, as I hold out my hand, he tilts his head back and forth and blinks twice. The cold is rushing into my room, my torso is shivering through the thin dress shirt, and a few flakes have fallen onto my hand. They disappear, soaking into my skin. I hold my hand motionless and wait.

      My hands are large with thin, long fingers, and she always marvels at their size when she presses her tiny palm up to mine. Her hand in contrast, is small; the fingers short and plump attached to a delicate and pale wrist.

      He hops closer to my open palm and stops to watch and inspect the seed with his tiny eyes. I can smell its sweetness and know it must be irresistible to him in this icy morning. With a final hop, he settles himself down, not on my palm, but beside it and pecks a seed from the pile in my hand. Then another and another. It is just the two of us, the free sparrow looking for a moment of warmth and me, the soon-to-be husband remembering where I can find mine.

      A knock on the door interrupts us; my college roommate, my best man calling to ask if I’m ready, or even up yet. The sparrow pulls one last seed and sings a few notes of gratitude before flying off. I leave the rest of seed in the snow on the windowsill and slip into my jacket, imagining her joyful expression, had she seen me feeding a bird from my hand on a snowy morning. I will have to find out what happened to her feeder. He’ll be back.

Holly lives in France with her husband. When she isn't writing she is either running, cooking, or struggling with the French
language. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in With Painted Word and The Battered Suitcase.


This story was inspired by it's opening line, which I found in a French grammar exercise book. "Il neige; sur le bord de la fenêtre se pose du moineau frileau et affamé." The poetic rhythm of the line stuck in my head alongside the image of my husband - I had just married - struggling with his suit in front of the bathroom mirror on our wedding day. The juxtaposition of the two staring at each other from opposite sides of the glass seemed all played out before me; the groom cocking his head in imitation of the sparrow, the sparrow hoping eagerly for a little treat, and the profoundness of one of those tender moments we often have, but quickly forget in the rush of grander events.



Copyright 2009