(by Alejandro Wagner, winner of the Flipside Short Story Competition 2022)
One Sunday afternoon I was in a park and there were two people on the bench next to me talking. I
couldn’t help but listen to their conversation. I have never seen birds in the same way since. the
conversation went something like this:
“It seems that in big cities you can find everything. Indeed, in big cities, there is always a shop open
for the midnight hungry. In big cities, there are people everywhere all the time. In big cities, there are
restaurants, bars, schools, parks and so on. Especially in these places, there is potential love on every
corner. But if these big cities have everything, they must also have the absence: the absence of love,
streets without restaurants, without parks, without little shops. This is the burden of being able to
find everything in a big city: there is everything and its opposite.
Yet, if I am talking to you today, it is because in this big city there is not everything. I have run
everywhere, looking in every corner, waiting in front of every watering hole. I asked the wise men
who have already seen many springs and I asked the young people with imagination who have not
seen many springs. Nobody knows. I see them everywhere in the city, flying over buildings, stopping
in parks playing with children and not so children. Sometimes they even have fun relieving
themselves on passers-by who are too concentrated. There are birds everywhere and that is my joy,
but never dead birds. Where do birds go to die? Are they too dignified to show themselves lifeless?
Do they have some secret ritual? I must confess that I don’t sleep anymore, always trying to answer
this question. Where are the birds going? I have imagined the wildest answers. Perhaps they never
die and tirelessly continue to be these magnificent images for our eyes, offering us when we leave
our buildings dreams of wanting to fly. Perhaps, when their time has come, the birds go off to burn
themselves against the sun. I must confess that I don’t understand anything, sometimes you see
ambulances lighting up neighbourhoods to pick up a dead person. Sometimes you see dead foxes on
the road, surprised by a car’s headlight. But you never see birds.”
And after a short reflection, the other replied:
“That’s a good question and unfortunately I don’t have the answer. But maybe you should ask
yourself a different question and ask yourself why they don’t stay here?
Let me give you my favourite answer. You must have noticed that the birds go very high in the sky,
higher than our buildings. Perhaps the birds, flying so high, see further than we do. Perhaps they see
places where they are most needed and fly to encourage those who try to cross borders at the risk of
their lives. Perhaps they exhaust themselves encouraging with their songs those brave people who
choose to leave and end up falling from the sky as tired as the men and women who cross seas and
I don’t know about you, but I personally like this explanation too.