She gave me a parrot for Christmas. But that’s a loose interpretation of what happened.
What really happened was this: my doorbell rang, and upon answering it, I saw her waving from the street before she stepped into a red SUV with him and drove off into her new sunset.
I stared at the SUV’s taillights. I ran my hand over my five o’clock shadow and said, “Hope you’re happy, June.”
“Hope you’re happy.” I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard my words repeated back to me in a familiar, bird voice. Lawrence, her parrot, sat on the perch of his metal cage, staring up at me.
“Fuck, Larry, you startled me. Why did she leave you here?”
“Why did she leave you here?”
I grimaced at his mimicked words. Why did she leave us both?
I slowly picked up the caged bird and brought him inside. A note was attached to the handle. I tore it off and stuffed it in my pocket; we’d find out what kind of weak excuse she had for leaving me for Avery, the cologne salesman from the mall department store.
Exhaling deeply, I set him up in the living room on the coffee table. Black and white shit dropped from his feathered rear on to the newspaper-covered floor of his cage, barely missing his food. Where would I even get more if he’d shat in it?
“All right, Larry, it’s you and me, I guess.”
“You and me.” He shuffled to the edge of the perch and hopped to another perching spot and gnawed on the side of the cage.
“Do you fly? Can I let you out?”
I’d dated June for only six months and not once had I ever asked a single question about Larry. I’d never shown any interest in the damn bird, so what was I supposed to do with him?
Plopping down on the couch, I pulled out the note and stared at the folded piece of paper. My name in her curly-cued handwriting: Danny. With a heart after it. I snorted and unfolded it.
I’m sorry to rush off like this, but Tyler’s grandma is ill. So, now feels as good a time as any to do this. I know I said he was just some guy I worked with, but he’s become so much more. He’s a confidant, a true partner, a real gentleman. Not that you weren’t those things, but I never felt as close to you as I’ve started feeling with him. He tells me things, like how he’s feeling, and he faces his emotions head on, instead of drowning them out with weed and whiskey on the weekends.
I’m sorry, but I won’t be coming back. Tyler’s grandma lives in Connecticut, and well, I think this would be a great time to start a new life, with him. I’m sorry to do this right before Christmas, but I hope you’ll understand. Things weren’t that serious with us, anyway, right?
Now the second thing I need to address in this letter is my beloved parrot. You are probably wondering why I’m leaving Lawrence with you. It wasn’t an easy decision, but Connecticut is a very long drive, and I don’t think he’d do well with it. I know Tyler wasn’t a fan of having “the incessant squawking” while he drove.
I don’t think he likes Larry very much, and I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to my bird, so I think he’ll be safer with you. I hope you understand.
Thank you for the last several months. Thank you for taking care of my sweet Lawrence.
I stared at the note, reading over it several times. Shaking my head and swiping the few stray tears away that welled up in the corners of my eyes, I looked back at the bird. “Incessant squawking,” what a phrase. It told me all I needed to know about the cologne-selling loser.
I thought of June and Tyler, driving that fourteen-hour drive to the east coast. If he hated her bird to the point that she thought he’d hurt the bird, how could he possibly be better than I was? How could he be a “real confidant” or whatever?
I had never taken issue with Lawrence. I hadn’t cared one way or the other really. But I was there for her. I listened when she needed an ear, a shoulder to cry on, whatever. I let her do most of the talking, sure, but it didn’t mean I didn’t share with her on purpose.
I chewed on my lower lip, wondering if she would be any safer than Larry would have been with him. Images of him yelling at her for singing along with the radio, banging on the dashboard if she told him a wrong exit, his hands connecting with her skin in angry, hateful ways flashed before my eyes. I shook the thoughts away, looking instead at the red, green, and blue feathered mess staring at me from my coffee table.
“Looks like it’s just you and me, Larry. We’ll figure this out.”
“Figure it out.”
I stared at the seeds at the bottom of his cage; the drying waste dangerously close to them. Where did she buy his food from? What was the name of that bird shop she’d taken me to just the once? Was it a regular pet store or some exotic bird store?
I looked at his pretty feathers; technically he was something else. Not a parrot, but something beginning with an ‘m,’ what was he? A mandible? Mahoney? A mamama…ma something? My eyes slid over the red feathers, they switched so quickly to green and then to blue. His white beak, with his weird black ring around it, separating the white around his beady little eyes. He blinked and cawed at me.
Macaw! That’s what she’d called him.
“Macaw,” I said, quietly, staring at the gifts under the small, fake Christmas tree in the corner of my living room. They had June's name written in my chicken-scratch handwriting.
“Macaw.” His wings flapped and he hopped down to the floor. He waddled over to the feed and stuck his beak in, chowing down as if June hadn’t abandoned him.
I could throw away the presents and dump him, too, if I wanted. She’d just discarded me just as much as her beloved bird; I didn’t owe her anything. I didn’t have to keep him, but I thought of June’s face, black and blue and on my doorstep six months from now, her busted lips going a mile a minute, begging me to take her back, that she’d been wrong, that Tyler was horrible, and the sick and twisted hope of that thought is what compelled me to keep Larry.
Pulling out my smartphone, I navigated to the almighty internet search engine, and typed: How do I care for a parrot my ex-girlfriend dumped on me?