I go through life with a constant companion. It is a great black bird, which can always be found perched on my shoulder. It is far from tame; sometimes it attacks me viciously, sometimes it is silent. But always, it is there.
I prefer to think of it as a jackdaw, the old harbinger of doom and misery, but the type of bird doesn’t matter, really. It is irrelevant. What matters is that it is always there. Like in my favorite old legend, in which a great black dog followed Doctor Faust and turned out to be a demon in disguise to which Faust sold his soul, my great black bird is a demon in disguise. It seems to have great sway over my soul, too, though if it owns it, it was a deal that I never had a say in.
The great black bird’s influence infects my mind, makes me think things that are not of myself. Sometimes my actions can be better attributed to the great black bird than to myself.
Recently the great black bird had flown away for a while, but I knew I was not free of it. This has happened before, many times. In fact, it is an endless cycle. And when the great black bird returns, as it has today, it sinks its talons ever deeper into my shoulder in a painful grip from which I cannot be freed.
I must learn how to cope with this bird. Maybe someday I will. But at times like this, with it sitting on my shoulder even now, it is difficult to imagine that. I worry that it will influence me to do something terrible, something I will deeply regret. Or, perhaps, something that I will be unable to regret but might, if I were still around.
I hate the black bird, but at the same time, it makes no more sense to hate the great black bird than it does to hate a force of nature.
After all, the bird is an aspect of myself. Powerful medications may make it more passive, but it cannot be killed. It will die when I do.
Right now, I am struggling with the bird. But this is my fate: to be locked in a silent war with my constant companion for as long as I live.
Maybe someday I’ll emerge victorious.
But until then, even as I write this, the great black bird watches quietly.