(Once again, it has taken me several weeks to get to a head space where I can write this. This isn’t exactly the “Happy holidays and good luck in the new year” post I would have chosen, but life just loves to be a kick in the teeth.)
Andrew was a cockatiel, brightly colored and noisy. He was the first pet I went out and obtained for myself. He was also the only pet I ever bought. I was 11 and, at that point, the way my family obtained animals was either to buy them or to have them show up on our doorstep.
I wanted a cockatiel because my friend had one and, after pet sitting while her family went on vacation, I thought they seemed like swell pets. I spent weeks getting books on parrots from the library, making sure I was choosing the right pet for me and would know how to take care of one. This was how I would prove to my parents that I was responsible enough to deserve a new pet.
Research only goes so far. Living is the real test. I figured out, not long into my life with Andrew, that I am not, in fact, a bird person. I was as ill-suited to birds as I was naturally at ease with dogs. But a pet is forever and I would make the best of it. “The best” turned out to be as complicated as ever.
Andrew hated most people. He also hated sheets, towels, jackets, any large expanse of fabric. He hated loud noises and sudden movements and my father. He expressed his displeasure with screaming. Incessant, ear-splitting screaming. The hatred was often mutual.
He loved me, though. He loved corn chips and the first English version of the Pokemon theme song, with which he could sing along, and stealing my earrings while I wore them. He loved me and we made it work.
I keep hearing him. I’ve said it before: grief lurks in routine. He had a noise he would make throughout the day, like a bat’s chirp, like a vocal “?,” pinging the world around him. And I just keep hearing that sound and waiting for him either to bellow or to sing, depending on what the world answers back. I keep wanting to answer too, but he’s not here. A song has gone out of my world.