If I was born a thousand years later I could be anywhere right now. Drawing my initials in the red sands of Mars. Navigating through the stratosphere of a planet caped in swirling white mist. Visiting a replica of an old Earth city on a distant moon in another solar system.
As it is I’m stuck on Earth but at least the ducks are back.
All my windows face towards the backyard. The backyard is long but narrow, about ten metres broad and stretching the entire length of the old apartment building. Green grass sprouting every which way dotted with yellow flowers, mowed every two months after the winter period at exactly six in the morning, framed by tall bushes, branch tips crowned with early spring green, edging along the chain link fence. There are exactly twelve trees, four of them conifers of some sort in a row, aligned between shrubs and fence. There used to be another one, small and spindly, standing on the left side of the four conifers, it was cut down last November. Two wooden benches dark as tree bark stand opposite each other on the mud spot in the middle of the yard, a spot were grass just doesn’t seem to grow. There is a bright orange waste bin next to one, and a trail leading up to the mud spot, there used to be another entrance. No one ever comes into the backyard, not for twenty years, the only entrance left, a big dark green gate just around the corner, is now kept locked.
On the other side of the fence another backyard, another house. A new house, squat, modern, expensive. White, very white, the balcony railings are sheets of grey metal. A community room on the ground level with access to the community garden. This backyard is well-kept, the grass literally greener, turf laid not two years ago, there are more benches, tables, everything new and unweathered. On fine days there are always people down there. The buildings are so close it creates an echo effect; whatever is happening in the other yard, ruckus of children, intoxicated young people, old men having a laugh, the entire house can hear it, both houses in fact.
There are always birds in the old yard, blackbirds and thrushes flitting about, pigeons trying to build their nests on semi-abandoned balconies; few people use the balconies for anything else but storage, never just for sitting, especially not since the new house was built. Mine houses the bicycles, still hibernating underneath military green tarpaulins. In January, the ducks came for the first time. Always two ducks, a male and a female, always sitting the the same spot before the shrubs shielding the conifers, I wonder if they are going to breed here. The female is very large, her plumage ten shades of brown, making her stand out among the green. She picks herself a spot close to the bush, almost underneath it. The male, slightly smaller, his dark green head glistening in the sun, sits three metres away, as if the two of them had had words, then gradually inches closer. They’re only there in the morning, they leave around noon, probably migrating over to the river, a duck’s version of a lunch date.
It is a small comfort to know that wherever I could be in the future, right now this is the only planet in the known galaxy that has ducks.