I first met my former roommate’s pet parakeet when I came home late from work one night. I entered my apartment sometime around midnight to the sound of birds chirping like I was in a g**damn rain forest, a fully-lit kitchen/living room area, and a tiny blue and yellow avian fella perched in a cage placed atop a table.
He was chirping and staring at me, blinking expectantly.
The bird did a bunch of cute-ish things, like staring at me, blinking, and rapidly shifting from side to side of his perch as I moved about the apartment. I talked at him like he was people.
The next morning, I woke up and went into the bathroom to take a piss. My roommate, who had left early for work, had left a note on the bathroom mirror asking me to leave the bird sounds that were coming from his laptop on, along with the light.
“The light and the chirping soundtrack are good for Ptery,” he wrote.
Ptery settled in to our small apartment, as well. We would let him out sometimes, something he seemed to thoroughly enjoy. He would fly around the living room and perch on our ceiling fan. He would perch on your finger and, before too long, your shoulder and your head. He was a lot of fun to have out of his cage, really, and he was super well-behaved aside from the fact that he had zero bowel control and would sh*t all over the place without a care in the world (which wasn’t his fault, obviously).
I very much enjoyed having Ptery around, even though he didn’t belong to me and his owner wasn’t the best of caretakers. Ptery had a small starter parakeet cage that saw its way through varying degrees of damage and dismantlement. See, my former roommate was kind of a deadbeat pet owner, who would haphazardly take the top off Ptery’s cage to let him fly around—and then he would drunkenly loves his balance and accidentally step on the top of the cage. It wasn’t long before Ptery’s cage had spaces in the wire mesh of his home that he could escape whenever he wanted to. Instead of purchasing him a new one, my roommate would use gaffing tape to try and remedy the damage he’d done to the wiring.
It never worked. The bird got used to his freedom.
My roommate moved out and my friend Steph moved in. Roommate took most of his belongings when he bounced, but asked if we would watch Ptery while he found new lodgings.
Steph agreed to this, though she had no inherent love for Ptery. To her he was just some bird who would make unnecessary noise and poop in a space she was trying to make presentable. (Before Steph, my place resembled a very small frat house, minus the random weights, buckets for Jungle Juice, and tubs of protein supplements.)
But summer wore on and my former roommate continued to procrastinate on finding a home. He was staying with a girl he worked with, and apparently her pet turtle did not want intruders like Ptery on his turf.
Ptery was growing on me. I started to wonder what it would be like to keep him.
Steph would come home to me talking to a bird that was sitting on my head while we ate cold cuts and watched “Frasier.” She’d she would ask when we were going to rid ourselves of that stupid bird.
But then she would come home drunk, and Ptery would perch on her finger and she would get super duper happy.
“HE MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A DISNEY PRINCESS!!!!” she would say.
Ptery continued to work his charm on Steph while his original owner continued to play the role of absentee deadbeat. He said that he would come over and let Ptery out into the concrete wilderness, which we were not willing to accept. We told him to not even worry about it—that we would take care of finding a home for the bird that he was unceremoniously abandoning.
The next morning she said we should buy him a nice cage and keep him in our living room. I found a cage modeled like a Brooklyn brownstone and immediately purchased it.
“You get to stay with us, buddy!” I said to Ptery as he did his horizontal defensive slides back and forth on one of his perches. “We’re going to grow up together!”
I put Ptery in his new cage with some fresh seed, oat groats and water. He began acclimating himself, mostly by exploring the entire space trying to find ways to escape, as he had gotten so used to.
I explained to him that now that he had a nice, large and serviceable cage, he would have to stay inside more often, because we didn’t want him pooping all over our apartment. He would just look at me, cock his head, and then go back to his escape attempts.
Two days later, Ptery was sluggish. I figured he was probably exhausted from his tireless attempts to Shawshank his way out of the cage. I worked from home and watched as he spent most of the day being super chill.
I went out for a few drinks with a friend, but returned home early. Steph entered soon after, and we took a docile Ptery out of his cage to watch some television with us. He did not seem well. The little guy seemed unable to correctly operate his left wing and talon, and he seemed not to have any special awareness. He was swaying back and forth on my finger, and eventually pitched forward and fell down onto the couch, where he tried to burrow his head into a dark spot in the crook of my arm.
Unaware of what else to do, we put him back in his cage and covered it, in hopes he would get some rest and be right as rain. Then we Googled all kinds of things about ailing parakeets.
When I came to check on him 10 minutes later, he had waddled over to a corner of his cage and had his head bent into the black corner, staring into darkness. I was able to coax him out, but he was no longer moving on his own. My buzz went away very quickly. I was now very worried.
I cupped a prostrate Ptery in both my hands while Steph stroked him. His breathing was shallow and grew shallower.
Then he was gone. Died in my hands, just like that. I teared up a little bit and went outside to dispose of him.
The next day, we discovered that Ptery had been taking bites from a plant we keep in the apartment. We will never know what killed him, but we hypothesize it was either that the plant is poisonous to parakeets, or that he hurt himself attempting to find the freedom that was taken from him for reasons he could neither comprehend nor live with.
All I know is that it reminded me that you should always be prepared for the perpetual possibility that something or someone will leave you shortly after you start to feel a little bit of love for it.