There were no people on the sidewalk, no beggars on the steps; the antique, ornate metal doors budged as much as a stubborn ox at the plowing season’s dusk. I shut my right eye tight and leaned in close to peer inside through the small crack between the two monumental doors. Nothing, except a small flickering light deep in the distance, greeted my curious eye. I might have been able to slide a note between the doors on a single sheet of paper, but I could not press sight into the same space before darkness consumed it wholly. Stillness moved swiftly about on the other side of the doors, and made a ruckus of silence that easily spilled out through the narrow crack between those doors. The steps were sticky with silence and shadows, and I stood plainly in them. No one on the sidewalk. And no one else on the steps.

The tall entryway hung around me, like a high-flung blanket of thick folds of grey and white marble, the center of which got stuck on a nail high on the wall over the doors. I stood under the arching marble blanket in a soft glow of light that pressed the marble blanket away from my crown. I felt tiny and soft standing in the glowing marble archway, still and curious. The skins of the doors appeared to have been meticulously carved with mathematical precision, a visual orchestra of swirls, peaks, squares, and circles. They echoed a grand tale: “Once upon a time, through these doors, walked a king and commoners alike …”

Tonight, though, there was no king. No commoners. Street lamps cast a powdery mist into the calm night air, and I noticed a few passersby; they seemed not to see the doors, the marble entry, or me. A man with a dark blue suit and shiny black shoes walked briskly by, and glanced at his watch twice before crossing the narrow, two-lane street. He hurried by the steps upon which my shoes soaked in silence.

A young woman with drab blonde hair sauntered in the opposite direction, wearing a skirt that moved like the aurora borealis, and in colors the same. A brown bag slung over her shoulder, and she carried a book in the crook of her arm. She didn’t notice me noticing her approaching the tight intersection at 5th Avenue, which she crossed carelessly.

I turned again to the door, and touched the unyielding handles. Brass or gold, I couldn’t be sure. My senses begged for more of the story. Who were these commoners that crossed the threshold guarded by these grand doors? Why did they come here? Where were they now?

Just then, I heard a purring whisper from above, as if peace passed over the heartstrings of a poet, whose words needn’t find paper or tongue. And there, tucked in a small architectural crevice that gave rise to yet more marble, rested a lone, gray pigeon. From the breast of a peaceful messenger, the story began to unfold.

A pigeon is a common bird, with an uncommon gift. Her sooty wings give flight to messages of love and longing, of good news, and warnings of danger. It is in her commonness that she journeys—unnoticed—from one place to the next, stitching humanity together with threads the length of her travels. She is ordinary, but in her ordinariness, she tells extraordinary tales to those who listen. Unlike her elaborate, marble birdhouse, in which she tucked herself out of view from the street behind layers of ornate majesty, she cooed a quiet, unassuming greeting.

The important man with the shiny shoes hadn’t noticed me. The woman with the book walked by without even glancing up at the mountain of marble upon whose steps I waited. But a simple, ordinary pigeon welcomed me to her spectacular home from a foyer the size of a breadbox. She told me about how commoners come to these doors to hear messages of love because they long for acceptance. There are times when the doors swing wide open to share good news, and other times they are unlocked to calm the commoners’ fears, and soothe their pains. She made this her home because from her foyer, she could watch the common folks pass through the doors; their sooty stories and tarnished, hardened hearts made well by the extraordinary experience of being common … noticed and loved.

Far above the narrow streets and luminous streetlamps, the moon glistened. With my silence-soaked shoes and quenched curiosity, I descended the steps delicately and walked north on 5th Avenue, on the tiny island of Manhattan, where common is breathtaking, and awe is as common as a small, silvered bird.

Marble entryway

Advertisements