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Pigeon Apocalypse, by Joanna Acevedo

Pigeon Apocalypse by Joanna Acevedo

The pigeons that were living in our ceiling had started getting aggressive with one another, and once in a while a shower of feathers and plaster would come raining down into my room. I wasn’t getting much sleep, which was making me irritable.

I thought I heard my roommate, Jared, telling a girl about the pigeons late at night, when he thought I was asleep.

“It’s like, the Pigeon Apocalypse in there,” he was saying into the receiver of the phone. He thought I couldn't hear him, but I could. “So if you want to hang out, we can’t go to my place. Besides,” he added, and I could hear the flick of the lighter as he lit his cigarette. “My roommate is kind of weird.”

“You’re kind of weird,” I said, to the wall that separated the two of us.

A few minutes later I heard the apartment door slam. Then it was just me and the pigeons. I listened to them rustling around, cooing, until I fell asleep sometime around dawn.


Jared interrupted me while I was writing a letter to my ex-boyfriend’s mom about how I missed her. I hadn’t liked the boyfriend much, but I had really bonded with his mother, and now we had a weekly correspondence. We exchanged knitting patterns and recipes for casserole. Sometimes she asked me for advice on parenting her younger sons, who were fifteen and eighteen, and getting into trouble left and right.

“You just need to be patient,” I always told her. Letters seemed awfully dramatic, and I liked that. I liked to pretend that we were living in a period drama, dressed in ostentatious, impractical clothes, and that it would be three months before I heard from her again, the letters traveling on horseback across the desolate American west.

In reality, our postman was pasty and grumpy and overweight, and complained to Mrs. Rogers, who lived downstairs, that his feet always hurt, that he had a rare and incurable liver disease. Sometimes if he was early on his rounds I could hear them chatting, through the air vents, the smell of ginger tea wafting up into my drafty apartment.

“You do know there’s such a thing as email, right?” Jared asked me, coming into the living room. He was looking at me like I was a waste of space, something unpleasant that had just crawled out of the swamp and into his living room.

“I like writing letters,” I said.
“You’re a space cadet,” he said, but this time there was affection in his voice. “Listen, I’m going to see a band later with some friends.”

For a moment, I thought he was going to invite me, and then I would have had to come up with an elaborate excuse for why I couldn't go, something to do with the lunar cycle and the pulsating of the tides. In reality, I was afraid of his friends, with their jeering smiles and biting wit, conversations flickering past at sixty frames a second, a sitcom in real life, complete with a laugh track and gleaming light show.

“I was just wondering,” he said, “if you could feed the cat.”

My face turned red, as if he could read my thoughts. Sometimes I thought he could. It was a secret suspicion of mine.

“No problem,” I said, and then put my headphones in, so that he knew that the conversation was over.

I found Jared through a Craigslist ad. The ad had read:

Considerate, responsible NYU graduate student seeks roommate. No freaks, no drug addicts, no trust fund babies, need references. Must be OK with cats.

The apartment was small, an hour from the city, but the room was clean and the neighborhood wasn’t bad for the price.

“You promise you’re not a weirdo?” Jared had asked.
“No,” I said.
I could see him considering his options. We were both students. We liked some of the same music. I got along with the cat, who butted his head against the palm of my hand and meowed plaintively when I got up to leave.
In theory, we should have been ideal roommates. Once in a while, I caught Jared eyeing me from across the living room, wondering what could have possibly gone wrong.
The problem was, I didn’t know what had gone wrong, either.


My only friend Sonia came over on Thursday night. Jared was around, cooking with headphones over his ears, and he smiled a small smile when I went to get the door for her. I had lived in the apartment for six months and never invited anyone over.

“This is my friend,” I said.

“I didn’t know you had friends,” he said.

Sonia wrinkled her nose. “Your roommate is a dick,” she told me, once the door to my room was shut.

“Yeah,” I said. He wasn’t, though. He was just telling the truth.

She picked up a piece of paper that was on my desk. It was part of a theory I was working on. I was convinced that all the people who went to my school were just clones of the same six people, repeated over and over, and wearing different outfits.

“So you’re not doing so well,” she said, once she had read it.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

“You know people are worried about you,” she said to me, and then went to the kitchen to get the bottle of wine I had in the fridge.

When she got back she had a funny look on her face. I made room for her to sit down on the bed, moving my papers and books and the treatise I was writing. It was a sort of manifesto, a peace treaty, to the pigeons. I was planning to leave it up in the hole in the ceiling, with an offering of birdseed, and then maybe they would leave.

“Your roommate is a dick,” she repeated, “but he’s kind of cute. Do you know if he’s seeing anyone?”

“That’s really not something I want to get involved in,” I said, and then she was nice enough not to press the subject any further.


I got home one day and Jared was sitting at the kitchen counter, opening my mail.

“Opening a person’s mail is like, a federal offense,” I said.

“So is assaulting a bus driver, and I’ve done that,” he said. There were a bunch of cigarette butts in the ashtray. Our landlord had started leaving passive-aggressive notices in the hallway reminding us that smoking was strictly in violation of our tenant contract and if we were caught, we could be evicted and not get our deposit back.

I had never actually paid a deposit. I gave Jared an envelope of cash on the first of the month and paid the light bill on my credit card. I had never even met the landlord, but Jared assured me I wasn't missing out on anything.

“Why are you going through my mail?” I changed tactics.

“I was bored,” he said. “Also, you get a lot of mail. Like, did you know your scholarship is going to be pulled, because you haven't been going to class?”

I did know that, but I had been trying to avoid it in the hopes it would go away.

“Why do you care?” I asked.

“I don’t,” he said. “I thought you might. Are you having, like, a psychotic break or something?”

I thought about it. I had been spending an awful lot of time indoors. I had been breaking into his room when he wasn’t home and rearranging his socks so they didn't match. I had removed all the cups from the cupboards in the kitchen and replaced them with Styrofoam replicas.

But I hadn't known that he had noticed any of these things. He came home and shut himself in his room and I couldn’t even hear him when I pressed my ear up against the wall.

“Would you mind if I was?” I asked. I sat down at the table and took one of his cigarettes out of the pack he had left on the table. The cat rubbed itself against my legs. The pack was so crushed and smushed that it seemed impossible that there could even be cigarettes in it.

“I don’t know,” Jared said. He seemed to be really considering it.

I lit the cigarette with his Zippo lighter, which was also on the table. Then I took the letter about the scholarship and I lit it on fire. It burned my hands a little, but I didn’t mind that too much.

Jared watched me with no expression on his face. Suddenly he looked like all of the other people I knew, all six of them. I blinked my eyes, hard, and the feeling went away.

“It’s the pigeons,” I told. “If I could just get a full night’s sleep, I think I would be okay.”

“What are you talking about?” He said.


Joanna Acevedo is a writer and student from New York City. She studies Writing at the New School. In her spare time, she works as a barista and plays roller derby.