The first time I saw an owl was in a very popular movie called Kòtò Ayé which was about witches. They would turn into owls so they can fly to and from their midnight meetings. It was the group screeching that prickled my skin with goosebumps.
That night and many nights after, I could not sleep alone. My body trembles as the sun sets. Every shadow was an owl and every sound, the witches’ eerie laughter in their human form. Going to the toilet in the night was out of it – I would lay on my side and pray that my mum wakes up. My only solace was that the night would be replaced by day in a few hours. Even those few hours seemed like days.
I re-watched the movie as an adult and I was put off by the visuals – bad compared to recent videos – and wonder how I ever got scared by the birds. I also googled different types of owls, and learnt about their hoots, snores and screeches.
However, nothing prepared me for the day I saw one in real life.
“These people must be the worst of the worst or why else would an owl take refuge in their house?”, a neighbour had said.
The Yorùbá girl in me had asked that same question several times, albeit internally. The owl’s snores kept me awake on nights when I couldn’t bear to keep the windows locked and even when I slide them close, I hear them faintly. How about the ones on whose roof it stays?
I cannot remember when exactly it moved here but ever since, it had worked with a strict schedule – 8pm to 6am. I often wonder where it goes when it is daylight. I got my answer soon enough.
My sister and I were talking about it and she told me they were two and that they barely leave their perch. Then, she proceeded to show them to me through the window. After a glimpse, I shot my head back with my heart racing.
Light brown and big, bigger than I thought they would be, they perched on a nook in the roof. They had faces shaped like apples, talons that seem like a combination of feathers and sharp bones and black beady eyes that I felt on me. It changed my perception of the image I saw online from cute to dangerous.
That was the last time I would try to look at them. I would stick with pictures and pretend I had never seen them.