I have lived here since birth. I like the green. I like it because it provides shade, in hot sunny days. I like it because it provides shelter from rain. I like it even in the midst of fog. This is my “habitat”, Filbert Street. There, in that white house live the Worth’s. He’s a lawyer, she is a journalist, writes a gossip column. They are always in a rush, so much so that they don’t even have time to talk to each other. Even after work, in the evenings, they go their separate ways, she runs to the exercise bike in front of the tv, to watch very boring romantic pictures, while he hits wildly the keyboard of his computer.
The other day they got into an argument, over having a baby, I think, but they were too much in a hurry to finish their discussion. It’s useless to greet them when they leave the house, they are too busy running down the steps on Filbert. You can yell till you are blue, they’ll never hear you.
In the red house instead, yes, the red one with the geraniums (red, obviously), there’s a guy called Gib, a strange fellow. He’s always painting. He gets his canvases and paints here, on a curve in the steps. He paints trees, leaves, flowers. A couple of times he even painted me.
Well, if you greet him, he’ll paint you, but he won’t greet you back. In the art deco building, the white one with Columbus peering into the horizon and Bogart looking out the window, live a lot of nice families. The Glanville’s, who have two kids, who throw paper gliders from the window of their bedroom. Trying to hit me… dreamers! Then there are the Coleman’s, who can never decide on anything, from the color of their interiors to the brand of cereals to buy. If I greet them, they’ll answer, but can never decide whether to say good morning or good afternoon. My favorites are the Pansy’s, Lydia and Charles. They used to have a flower shop down at the Embarcadero, but now they are retired. Yes, they are my favorites. They always bring us a snack… for me and my brothers. We like the seeds a lot, eaten with the red berries we find on the bushes, they are tasty. You can greet them at any time and they will always answer you. They’ll be here shortly for sure … I wait for them here, by this bush off the street, so I’ll be sure to be the first in the pecking order… I always land on Mrs. Pansy’s head. And she always gives me more seeds than what the others manage to get, fighting among them, from the hands of poor Charles.
Here they come, didn’t I tell you? I’m ready for my snack…
But she’s by herself today! And doesn’t have any seeds with her, either… She’s heading toward the bench… she’s not coming over to the bush?
I close my eyes. And pause.
My wings feel heavy to fly over to the bench, I’m afraid to look at her eyes, to know what I already imagine. Then I find the courage, I plane down from the branch, leaving my brothers busy stuffing themselves with berries, and fly to her.
“Hi May!” and pauses. “Charles isn’t here …. That’s how it goes… a life together… old age… failing health… and then one day you wake up and find yourself alone!”
I bend my neck a bit, I wish I could have a facial expression, but parrots were left without, but I know she understands anyway.
“You are hungry, aren’t you?”
For the first time in my life I’m not hungry.
“Wait here, I’ll get you some seeds…”
If I could put together a sentence and not just single meaningless words, I would tell her “Forget the seeds, tell me instead about the two of you, the two of you together… because sooner or later I’ll have mate and become a couple, and I would like to have your same way of looking at the the world.” That’s what I would say, if only I could. So I watch her go to the house to come out shortly with the seeds.
I don’t know whether I should land on her head, until she puts the seed in her hair.
So our daily ritual begins. For us, it’s a way of remembering him, of feeling that Charles is here anyway. She goes toward the bush with me perched on her head busy eating seed. As soon as they see her, my brothers fly to her hands as they used to do with Charles. I see her smiling, that the gesture helps her… then I look over to the street and understand why she smiles… Even if I don’t realize it immediately… Then I focus in and I see Charles.
He approaches with a bag of seed in his hand, their eyes riveted one on the other. As he nears, Charles lowers his glance. By the time he reaches the bush, he is looking at the ground.
“We both are!” Lydia answers.
“It’s just that I feel vulnerable… the more so each passing day… it’s the fear of feeling the years… I thought that you would wake up one day considering me a burden… and I didn’t want to destroy the memories of a life together with such a picture… the only solution was to leave…”
“Hush! What’s this nonsense!”
A incredulous smile appears on Charles’ lips. “But who? The parakeets?”
“Yes, them! May is so smart!”
Yes, I know, I really am. But I’m also happy to hear Charles’ hearty laugh, mingling with Lydia’s mischievous one. Yes, they are a real couple of parakeets!