(4) El Pájarito de Abuela - nicholaiv

El Pajarito de Abuela

by nicholaiv

He awoke to the quickly fading umbre of a sad dream. His eyesockets had filled with tears and had become little saltwater pools and his vision swam and the sparsely lit darkness that awaited him was like he'd fallen into another dream. But a sharp sensation, unlike the sensuality woven by the numbed senses of a dreaming mind, pricked at his chest, and he bent his chin forward, which emptied the small pools of tears down his puffy cheeks, and blinked the world into focus. 

There in the bony valley formed over the solar plexus, warming itself with the mounds of his breast, sat a little pale Parakeet.  

Recognition was gradual, as is common of the waking moments after a gentle dream, and in the halo of melancholy and hallucination, a supernatural tenderness gripped his heart; he recognized in the bird's expressive eyes, softly lidded, the same look his Abuelita used to give him; he had memories of when she'd hold his cheeks in her warm fleshy palms and affection and fear and sadness and hope would combine in that slim-eyed stare, an impossible mix of emotions that only love across generations can transmit in earnest, and its effect would survive far into his own senility. And here, now that his Abuela only existed in the lesser traveled canals of his heart, this impossible little creature, who had made a nest of his chest and was stirred by the dark universe of his dreams, looked at him with her same eyes, and maybe, he thought, spirits do exist.  

By the time the stale gray light of an overcast morning shone through the corners of his barred and curtained windows, the two animals - the man and the bird - were still locked in the same confused position. The bird would fluff itself, close her large eyes exposing the soft purpled flesh of her eyelids, stretch her tiny yellow beak in a yawn, give a little cough, then open her eyes again and give him the same look, again and again; and the man would stare, enchanted, his neck beginning to cramp but unable to look away, awe and love and tenderness and sureality mixing in a pot of Nostalgia that smelled like Abue's Sancocho.  

Then the alarm rang and he was brought back to the vagaries of life extant, and with gentle movements, slow enough to allow the pale Parakeet to move to a spot on his shoulder, he stood and began his morning ablutions; questions of the night remained, but he threw them in the same compartment he stored questions of import, like whether he'd continue to quit smoking, when to return his mother's call, and if he should schedule that proctologist appointment. He would revisit them all later; for now, he would enjoy his new and familiar friend.  He found that the bird was curiously attached to him.   

Before his shower, he pressed his finger against her breast and set her on the counter but she would scurry up his arms in hurried steps and nestle on his shoulder; he tried this several times to the same end. So he showered and the bird showered with him. He brushed his teeth and the bird would preen her feathers on his crooked arm. He changed and the bird would crawl through the shirt's armhole and resettle on his clothed shoulder.   At his wooden kitchen table, dressed for work, he introduced Sugar to the bird.  

"She looks at me the way my Abue used to," he said. Sugar, who had prepared him a pair of eggs and toast, which he thanked it for with a good morning hug, looked at the little Parakeet and smiled, a simple happiness that only lower creatures miming human affection are able to evoke. Sugar reached a slender white finger for the bird, but the bird nipped at it.  

"She must be attached to me already!" he said, aroused by the idea of being the bird's sole love. Sugar's smile did not wane, but a gentle curiousity bent its brow.   

He had his breakfast, feeding a few crumbs of bread to the bird which scooped it out of his palm, then bade farewell to Sugar with a friendly kiss and headed to work. He gave himself and the bird a look in the mirror that hung in the corridor which led to the front door. There seemed something incredible, which floated among the loosed down the bird would shed; floated in that still air, infinitely fine, a thread of 2-dimensional silk, but if he would reach for it and grasp it, it would just be crushed feathers when he'd open his hand. So he let it be.  

The day passed by with the vague aura of interest others lend to your own felicity; that is to say, he remembered little of his day but the pale Parakeet. Except for Lucy, who had been seated at their shared table in the morning and had said, craning over her puffing Eucalyptus humidifier and with a mouthful of vapor, "It sure coughs a lot," before pulling her head back and disappearing into the fog that surrounded her workspace. It was a trigger, and he excused himself from the table and requested to take the rest of the day off and on his way home he fretted endlessly about the bird's health, noticing little more than its heartrending little titters.  

In his living room, he removed old photos and a vase of white Oriental Lilies from a display table and moved the table to a corner in his bedroom. On it he placed a newly purchased bird cage, lined it with newspaper, filled one small attache with seed and the other with water. He bid the bird to the cage, but no amount of cajoling would move the little critter from his shoulder. She'd cough and her eyes would speak to the grandchild in his heart, and he would lay his chin in her upturned hands and weep like he should've when they buried Abue and he was absent. So he let the sickly little bird make a nest of him.  

He spent the night thinking of remedies for the bird's cough. The internet gave him no solutions. His messages had begun to fester with disuse but he hadn't the mind to remedy it. So he got ready for bed with the little Parakeet on his shoulder and slept with her on his breast and didn't dream.  This went on for several weeks.   

The little Parakeet's fits continued and his concern drove him to madness - it seemed to him at any moment the little bird would die, and to his sick heart this was a fate worse than his own death. A dizzying delirium gripped the man, and he wondered when he had been caught in this damnable water turbine, that never held him long enough in its dark waters to drown him, but never let him see the sky long enough to take flight. He wasn't spared the bitter peace that comes with numbness, and he ached, and the smells of nostalgia bit at his nose.  

Then one dreamless morning, awakened suddenly by the most surreal mix of all sensations - those produced by an absence - he found that the little pale Parakeet wasn't nestled in its usual spot on his chest.   

It was then and only then that he was awash with numbness.  

Slowly his slumbering senses emerged from their winter holes. He sat up, roused by the sound of flowing silk. He turned his head, rubbed his crusted eyes, and found a cat laid languorously on his bed next to him, its chin resting on its paws and its eyes large and staring at the open window and the empty bird cage that sat unused next to it.  What magic transformed the bird into the cat - a magic of hunger, triumph, freedom, relief or pain - he did not know; but this was something new. Its long legs were the color of cafe con leche; its fur smelled of morning storms and he longed to press his face against it; its sensuous purrs echoed in new and strange halls and he drifted to them and out of the dank rooms of his past; its eyes, that looked at him with only vague interest, caught all his shame in their black nets. 

It was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen, and he wept.

#shortstory #writing


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