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After the fire I went to church. In the confessional the priest asked me if I practiced self-pollution. The words were formal, unfamiliar, but I knew what he meant. So, I thought, kneeling there in the dark, crushed with shame, there’s a name for it. I looked at the shadowy grill, looked toward the source of the soothing voice of absolution, the voice of forgiveness and hope, and I lied. “No,” I whispered. And then there was the bird.

When the priest asks the young narrator to confront his sins, he lies. This decision turns the narrator away from the things the priest offers him: absolution, forgiveness, and hope. Then the bird appears, the embodiment of strength and vulnerability. This bird represents manhood, and the boy, struggling with puberty, sees the bird and everything it represents as an object that can be conquered. When the boy first sees the bird, he is in awe of its mysterious nature. But the excitement wears off when the young narrator sees the bird’s wound. The young narrator has much bigger expectations for adulthood, and when the wound is revealed, he lashes out.

 

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