A few words about why I haven’t written: First, foremost, this semester is kicking me in the ass; I’m busier with work than usual, try as I might to cut back my workload, streamline, etc. When one has spent days on end writing comments on 80 students’ papers — and this one believes in giving useful comments — then one does not feel as inclined to do the writing one does enjoy. Second, perhaps more importantly, I sometimes hit writing snags because I think I must present events in order. It seems rude to introduce Alfie when I haven’t properly completed the Mango story. But I’ll ask that you bear with me and try to understand that even though that little old lovely Senegal has died, he remains with me — ineffably, yes, but with me nonetheless. And I’ll tell his story eventually, I’ll write in detail about his death, but now is not that time.
I met Alfie on August 4th, the day she and her newly weaned clutchmates were brought to the bird shop. She had sleepy-droopy eyes and let me scratch the top of her head. She looked plump, she looked to have a receding chin, and in profile she looked to me like Winston Churchill or Alfred Hitchcock. I didn’t want her right away, but every time I returned to the shop, I held her, and she had the same sweet, sleepy, laid-back attitude. I taught her to step up and give me a kiss immediately after. And even though I still mourned Mango and even though I couldn’t convince myself I needed a third bird, I took her home September 8th.
My love for her has been slow to develop. That doesn’t mean I don’t love her. It’s just that I loved Niko instantly. I loved Mango instantly and deeply. When I brought Ruby home, I loved her with a respectful reserve; that love has only deepened and become more richly affectionate. I feel the same sort of thing taking place with Alfie, a slow love.
I named her Alfred Hermione Winston. No, Hermione didn’t come from the Harry Potter character. The first time I saw that name, I thought it was pronounced Hermie-on. It had a pompous look to it. Then I learned its true pronunciation; it didn’t lose its pomp, but it gained music. Alfie is more honestly named after the song, one of my all-time favorite standards, a true love song. I’ve long wanted a pet named Alfie. Now I have one.
This week she started making kiss noises. She also chuckled. Either that, or she was imitating the monkey we don’t own and have never met. Yesterday throughout the day she practiced saying hi: “Hi—-i–i–yi–iiiii.” She sounds like a squeaky baby doll, a little child. This morning when I woke up, she stood on my shoulder and babbled. When I got home from work, she babbled some more. Her noises up to this week have been an annoying repeated loud (but not piercing) squawk — mercifully, she stops after 30 seconds or a minute — and a “huh?” sound that I can’t figure out how to write phonetically. It’s a dunce-like sound, very silly and fetching.
I’m too tired to say more tonight. Only, the sorts of imitative sounds Alfie has adopted lead me to believe she’s going to have a good life. Kisses, chuckles, “hi–i–yi–ii.” I may not have needed a third bird, but I like having this one. She doesn’t replace Mango — she was never meant to — but like him, her personality is entirely different from Ruby’s or Niko’s. And like all of them, she makes me happy.