Bird Collector

Regina_-_cageBy Regina Ernst

She’s a bird collector. She shares her space with me and twelve or thirteen pájaros. It’s hard to say how many there are exactly, because her husband keeps giving her new ones. I was the newest addition when I arrived a few weeks ago, but then came the large black one with the indigo specks on its head, the one that always looks to the bars of its cage for an escape. Now, it’s the oversized green parakeet that she promises will speak, but I think he’s depressed. She sings to him all day long, calls his name, the same name as her husband who lives in Cartagena, but he never talks back. He just perches tall in his cage, looking out, waiting.

We have visitors, too. The neighbors come engage with the pájaros, to see her, to bring her arepas in the morning, to tell her all their personal chisme. She listens intently, with crumbs on her lips, the ceiling fan whirling above.

Free birds fly onto the back patio to inspect the lives of those that are caged, to judge them, to steal some seeds before they take flight. They all converse, making their little individual chirps and squawks. What’s it like out there? The free birds don’t say, neither does she. But I’ve started to whisper to them in the madrugada, after they wake me. We’re all here for now, the strange birds.

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