When Mom’s friend went to India, we looked after her eclectus Paw-Paw.
Mom put the cage in the living room so the bird could observe our dysfunction.
Dad tried coaxing Paw-Paw to talk. She still just squawked after a week but he didn’t give up. I’m not sure… I don’t remember him ever spending that much time with me.
Feeding Paw-Paw was my job. Pineapple, strawberries. Grapefruit she spat back out. We had that in common.
I hadn’t realized I could be nurturing.
One morning between bites of pineapple, Paw-Paw said, “I love you.”
I’d underestimated her.
Paw-Paw cocked her head. She looked at me like she expected a reply.
She’d overestimated me.
“I love you,” she said again.
My parents love me. They used to tell me. I have a good memory.
I don’t know why but I opened the cage and Paw-Paw flew around the living room, shitting everywhere and squawking.
When Mom came out of the kitchen with more fruit, she swore. Paw-Paw kept repeating “Shit.”
Mom grounded me for a week—a meaningless gesture.
After dinner, Dad went to the living room. Mom gave me sorbet and complained about her depression. “Life is medieval,” she said.
When I wheeled through the living room, after, Dad was feeding Paw-Paw. So I didn’t have to. I went into the elevator.
“I love you,” I heard him say, over and over, as the door closed.