a different kind of loss

“They are parakeets,” the guard said. “Up in the tower? Yeah, those are parakeets.”
            “Oh really?  I always thought it was parrots that lived in this cemetery.”
            “You can tell the difference by the way their tail feathers are shaped.  If they’re pointed at the end, it’s a parakeet.  If the feathers are spread out like a fan, then it’s a parrot.  I should know.  My lady was a parakeet.” 
            “Yeah?” Zosia inched toward the exit.  The sun beat down on us  - exuberant, late-spring heat offering to furnish the sweltering summer to come.  Greenwood Cemetery was green and pink, abloom with flowers, heavy with bees and humidity.  It was hard to believe that just five weeks ago, Michael and I had trekked through this place in the monochrome of snow, clouds, and granite.
I shaded my face with my hand.
            “She’s buried over there.” The guard gestured over to a modestly sized catacomb near his booth.  Topped with a green copper roof and dotted with a few tombstones like a small, granite garden, the building gave no evidence of a clandestine pet burial.  This man could never afford to be buried in the elite and glamorous Greenwood Cemetery himself, but his job did come with some perks.
“The family that I got her from was named Russo,” he said.  “And it turns out that this is the tomb for another family named Russo, so I got lucky.”
            “It was really hard.  Really hard to lose her,” he said.  “It was a long time before I was ready to let her go. I kept her in the freezer for two weeks before I could do it.”
            “Birds live such a long time,” I said.  “You must have been very attached.”
            “She died young,” he said.  “She was only twenty.  And she died of a broken heart.”
            “Oh no.”
            “I started seeing this woman.  And my bird didn’t like that one bit.  She got really sad - and mopey.  And then she started laying eggs.  She never had laid any eggs before.  One of them got stuck inside her and she got sepsis and she died.”  His face constricted with the memory.  “And then the woman left me.”  He sighed. “ And so I lost both of them.”
            “I don’t want another bird,” he said.  “Never again.  They’re too needy.  They get too sad when you’re not home every day.  This bird, she used to follow me around, saying ‘Matthew, Matthew.’”   
            “How-“ I opened my mouth to say, just as two cyclists rode in past the gate.  The guard put up his hand and his voice changed. 
            “No bikes.  No bikes allowed in here.”
            “Oh, sorry, we didn’t know.”
            “You’re welcome to lock them outside and continue through the grounds on foot.”
            “Oh, we don’t have a lock with us.  I guess we’ll come back another time.”
            “If you put them over there,” the guard gestured in the direction of the Russo catacomb, “I’ll keep an eye on them.  I promise you, they won’t get stolen on my watch.”


Popular posts from this blog


the water

on the water