the pink peacock

On a run through the grounds of the Instituto Fernando Brennand. I don’t know if I’m really allowed to run here, but there are so many stretching kilometers—I have to find 15 of them today; the half-marathon is in less than two weeks—and the Institute is tucked behind the city on a huge parcel of land, flat and green and carless and quiet, and it feels like I’m discovering something hidden.

I run on a long and rutted access road that cuts through a field of thick grass between the sculpture garden and the art museum: so much space. I approach the museum, and the space closes back in: buildings and cars and a statue-adorned fountain in the middle of a circular drive. Tourists snap photos of the fountain—grey figures doubling back, hands on foreheads. I am drenched in sweat, and the museum guards stare at me as I pass: confusion or indifference. I give them a thumbs up and gesture a circle with my hand: just passing through. The uneven cobblestone of the drive makes my knees buckle, so I hop on the the grass, and loop around the fountain, around the clusters of tourists. They glance at me, and then they gawk. One teenagers turns around completely and snaps a photo of me. I realize I am an unusual sight, but really…? I attempt to glare at them. And then I feel a peck on my calf, and my heel hits something on its upward stride. I turn back. A pink peacock is sprinting after me, nipping at my heels, neck darting front and back.

I stop, stunned, and shoo it away with a “tssk.” It, too, stops, and circles me, neck darting front and back. It is perhaps two feet tall, a round, grounded bird, skinny legs for running and wings too weak to fly. A splayed hand of feathers arches over its otherwise bald head: a pink mohawk. I run again, around the fountain and down the road a few hundred feet. It’s hot on my heels, pecking at ankles. I stop again, and shoo it away in Portuguese: “saí!” It does not sair. The tourists are still staring.

There’s nothing much more that I can do except snap it away with another saí, and take off in a dead sprint the opposite direction, believing in the strength of my legs over its. Word of the day: beliscar—to peck.

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