Walk down the same street as always to the same park as always and sit on the same bench as always. Routine aside, something is different today – the lick of the wind or maybe you brushed your teeth from left to right this morning, it’s elusive but it’s different – you’re different. Witness a small bird careening by, leaving blurred trails of brilliant green in his wake. Think it’s beautiful; breathe in, take flight.
Close your eyes and rest your open hands on your knees, palms facing the sky. It happens suddenly – find that what was empty only a moment ago has been filled. Open your eyes.
There he is, resting in your palm. The bird. Hold your breath, afraid that any discernible interest, any curiosity will scare him away. Hold it… hold it… hold it… until you have to let it go. Exhale. He’s sitting still, looking at you expectantly. Gently close your hand around him, finger by finger. Do this not to trap him; just to touch him, you’ve never felt anything like this before. Tickle his wings with your fingertips. Aside from the rhythmic, irrepressible beat of his body, he remains still. It feels like his heart is in his stomach.
You’re both frozen, you on the bench, him in your hand. “What do you want?” ask him in a springtime voice. He continues to look at you expectantly. You take him home.
Wonder why he hasn’t taken flight just yet, why he’s still hanging around. You walk four blocks north and three blocks west and he sits perfectly poised in your palm the entire time, not like an animal with wings but like something more domesticated, something settled. Strangers on the sidewalk shoot you an odd eye, but you don’t mind it. They’re just trying to figure out how to get what you got.
Get home, do research, find that your new friend is a parakeet. One who belongs to someone else, one who is lost. The tips of his wings are overgrown and he looks at you as if to say, “I’m with you now, no?”
At first, it was like speaking in tongues, trying to communicate. But after a while, you found a common language.
“Hello,” he chirps.
Say, “Thank you.”
“Thank you,” he parrots.
Chirp, “I love you.”
“I love you. I love you,” he repeats.
Some months go by, the two of you share a home. You clip his wings to keep him grounded, you feed him lettuce. You’re the first thing he sees in the morning and the last thing he sees at night. When you cover his cage with a black sheet to tell him it’s time to go to sleep, he says, “Goodbye.” “Goodbye,” you say.
One day, as you hand-feed him lettuce, he nips one of your fingers. He draws blood. Retract your hand from the cage with a sort of black shock – deep, vast, and indescribable. Learn to fear him, his beak, his wings; the things you once thought of as beautiful are frightening. Those expectant eyes have transformed into dotted punctuation… an indifferent ellipsis that trails off and welcomes whatever is next. What’s next?
Cringe when you hear him mocking the laugh track of the sitcom you’re watching. Cringe when he whistles the song your father taught him during his last visit. Stop clipping his wings. Start leaving the front door open. Come home from work one day and find that he has gone. The cage is empty. The house is quiet. It feels like your heart is in your stomach.
Walk down the same street as always to the same park as always and sit on the same bench as always. Same street, same park, same bench – but you’re different.
Chirp, “I love you.” Notice the way it echoes.