Traslation from Croatian by Elizabeta Bakovska
The squeaking of parrots is interrupted only by a full throat. And their disobedience? Cutting the top of their beak with small scissors. When I grabbed Chicky in rage and I lamed his parrot snout, he was offended for days. He would not even look at me. But he ate well. Imagine: I wanted to give him a kiss, I wanted him to open his mouth and to give me the usual knock on my teeth with his beak, but he pinched the soft cartilage between my nostrils with all of his force. How come such genuine rage rose inside me and how come the scissors were so close, the devil would know.
I got Chicky from my ex-girlfriend several months ago; the tissue above his beak was still pink from his young age. Tanja, my ex, stood by the cage every day and chirped; she protruded her lips and produced some sounds that were supposed to explain to him that he was welcome and that we loved him. She also taught him some words, but he never said any. Yellow like a chick, he stared in her lips, he twisted his head and walked left and right along his bar. Then we found out that Chicky was actually a female and therefore not good in chatting. I repeated how funny and ironic that was, and Tanja immediately started to look for a groom and think of options for a nest. This matter was suddenly interrupted because we, due to our incapacity to hatch our own babies, decided to give up living as a couple. The fact that Chicky remained with me was pure coincidence. Actually, I think that Tanja, when she was leaving the apartment dragging those two heavy suitcases, completely forgot that she was supposed to take the bird.
“Take care”, she said before the door slammed behind her. I heard the wheels of the suitcase banging down the stairs. It was late in the afternoon, people returned from work and hugged their wives and children, and I sat alone on the couch in front of the TV. Chicky hysterically turned his head behind my back.
I was madly in love with Tanja, it is no secret. For her I would host a pile of dirty rats, not to mention a parrot.
We met in high school. Short exchange of words as you pass by, cold decency, and “do you have the solutions to math problems”. She was a popular girl, cool, she dated boys who trained rough sports and wore tight T-shirts. I was a normal guy, not interesting enough to jump in, not stupid enough not to notice it. We enrolled at two different universities, but I always saw her on the tram, on the streets, in the clubs, in the cafés. At almost every concert where I would go, at some moment Tanja would peek from the piles of drunken heads, fresh and cheerful. Once I went to the seaside, the summer was already at its end and I barely made my mother lend me the money.
I rushed into the bus at the last moment and I sat down, all sweaty and sticky, and then I realized that the golden hair on the seat in front of me was Tanja. We were going for a summer holiday to the same place, even our apartments were on the same street. These strange coincidences would glue me to Tanja more and more. I was interested in how her life developed, if she was still successful and why people loved her so much. She was beautiful, but with unusual features. She had full lips, her nose was a bit too long, and narrow, slanted grey eyes. That summer I finally attracted her attention and we started to spend time together. How I managed, the devil knows.
After Tanja had left, Chicky started to behave strange. In the morning he would squeak when he saw me, he would spread his wings and show his tongue. If it had been any other animal it would growl when I came into his view. Such a small pile of yellow feathers looked like a demented scum. I assumed he missed Tanja and I did not address him.
“He’s so cute”, said the girl that I brought home one nights. She swayed in front of the cage; her bag fell from her hands. Chicky stared at her in the darkness, not moving. I had no idea what her name was. I met her at the bar; she could drink almost as much as me. Tanja was dead after a beer and she giggled like a tipsy teenager. I hung her jacket on the hanger and I went to the fridge to take out a bottle of wine. The chick stood in front of the cage and tutted, and then she pushed her finger through the bars. I was quiet. She had a long artificial nail which looked like an ugly red claw. Chicky gathered speed, shook his head wildly and pinched her. For a moment a raw hatred flashed from his eyes and I made a step back. The girl screamed and started to suck on her finger with all of her force. I don’t remember when I laughed so much for the last time. Tanja had no sense of humor, that was her only fault. We emptied the bottle of red wine and moved to the couch. As I shoved inside her, we heard some noise from Chicky’s cage. I looked behind me: the madman fiercely banged his head against the small round mirror that Tanja had placed in his cage.
“Why do you have a picture of Tanja Sablić in your bathroom?” the chick asked me in the morning, when she finally started to get ready to leave. I didn’t respond, I watched TV.
Every morning I make the bed and I air the room, and then I make myself a cup of coffee. Back, no sugar. Tanja drinks it that way, with a croissant. I give Chicky food and water and I move his cage closer to the window. While I am gone, he’d better look outside. When that girl stormed out of the apartment crying that morning, I first threw up and then I went to bed for a bit longer.
I dreamt that Tanja had returned and that she carried a little girl with a soft yellow hair in her arms. She had large round eyes and she looked straight at me. The dream upset me a lot and I called Tanja to see how she was. A voice told me the number was disconnected.
I tried not to think of her, but I simply couldn’t. I knew everything about Tanja and I could not imagine myself with another woman. I could recite a list of her favorite books and films at any time, I knew the brands of her lipsticks and eye shadows, gentle stories of her childhood and sweet dreams about the future turned in my head. She was part of my days for too long and such habits are difficult to cut out of one’s life. I didn’t cry, but my days passed in dry silence and constant remembrance. Something had to be done.
I had to see her.
The sun had shined well already, but I put on a jacket. I had some fever, maybe from the alcohol that I poured inside me last evening. I got in my car. There are not many people in the park, only a joyful crowd around the playground. Tanja was sitting on a small bench next to the toboggan. When she saw me, she stood up, took out her mobile and called somebody. She looked upset, maybe even scared.
“Stay where you are!” she yelled. “I called the police.”
My hands shook and I felt sweat running down my forehead. It was too warm, and I had dressed as if it was fall already. I was confused; I forgot what I wanted to ask Tanja and why I was actually there. A friend put her arm around her waist and whispered something to her, upset. The chick was familiar; I had probably seen her on TV. She might have been in Tanja’s show. My head hurt and I felt sick again. Tanja Sablić, the most beautiful face on the TV screens. I leaned against the fence with my arm and I tried to remain calm. Be with Tanja every day at Sweat run into my eyes and it started to burn. Tanja – every day in your living room. I might have a handkerchief in my pocket. The beautiful presented Tanja Sablić sells parrots at a humanitarian fair. I took my hand out of the pocket and somebody screamed. There was a yellow parrot on my palm, his legs were turned towards the sky and his tongue was stuck through his blunt beak. Chicky, cold as ice, started at me. How he’s gotten there, the devil knows.