the red robin visits my window once a week
i give her bird seed stolen from the cage of my father's bird, and water stolen from my mother's bottle

nothing she consumes is genuine and mine. i have a habit of giving away things i do not own. it is easier than giving away my own belongings, when parting with my things feels like parting with myself.

she brings a companion, but he never greets me. when he feels impatient, when he reckons she's been at the window sill for longer than he would like, he calls for her angrily and they leave.

one day i find the courage to ask her, "does he hurt you?"
because he reminds me of my mother's husband who hurts her often. he has the same sharp eyes, and calls just as loud. his voice shakes my heart the same, pushes it down into my stomach and drowns it in the acids.

she does not answer me. she reminds me of my mother who does not answer my questions, who leaves them open and hanging pitifully like a rejected handshake. i know it is because the answer will hurt us.

she comes to me the same, but stops eating as her visits pass. she does not drink either. the male bird comes to my window for the first time, and stares at her. she does not eat her seed, so he does. she does not drink her water, so he does.

she is thin and looks sick. i can recognize these dynamics, the way that the male consumes everything the female has and leaves her with nothing to stand on. he gets fat with the stolen goods that once belonged to her. she is skinny and living off of his eyes, drinking up the smallest of his leftover droplets. i thought many times to just go and get more, but every time i came back with something for her to have, they had already left the sill.

when she comes back, she does not eat. he eats. she does not drink. he drinks. i ask her, "does this make you sad?" and she says nothing.

she begins to call to him. her sound is soft and unlike his, but she speaks with the strength that pools in her chest. she flies off, without his command. this is the first time i see disobedience. this reminds me of my mother who hits back sometimes.

he leaves, too. i pray that she flies farther off than home. when my mother hits back, she is hit harder.

two weeks pass and no one comes, but as the earth spins into a third she returns and i lay out her food in hope that she will eat and drink.
i notice things are not the same. her wing does not stretch out far. she flew in crookedly and her body is scratched. there is nothing but angry skin where some of her red used to be. she looks between him and me. he sits perched on a tree and says nothing.

she eats as if she has starved years and stumbled across thanksgiving. she drinks as if it is the first rain of a decade's drought. she opens her mouth and i think that she will speak to me, but his call is overbearing and it drowns her voice.

i test my own bravery. i speak with my own authority. i say to her, "you don't have to leave! come, come inside! allow me to fix your wing, allow me to shelter you at least for tonight."

she opens her mouth, closes her mouth. she flies to him anyway. that night, i think about the first time i stood up to my mothers husband. the first time i was able to speak, able to say, "stop! stop hurting her!"

my mother abandoned me then, too. she told me to get away from her, she yelled at me then. i think about the uselessness of my voice, how speaking only does so much when people refuse to hear you.

i stop seeing the red robin. i could estimate a month's passing before i see any bird, and it's not her, but him. i say to him, "did you do something to her? what has become of your wife?"

"lay out no more food." he replies. "she will not eat."
"lay out no more water." he replies. "she will not drink."

he turns and leaves then, does not wait for a rebuttal from me.

there is blood caked beneath his feet, and yet he flies as if he could not be more comfortable.