23 March 2018
By day, I sit in the shade beneath the grapefruit tree and watch as the sun turns each globe of fruit into a shiny planet. The hummingbirds visit me. They whir their wings, bow their heads, and pay homage with their ruby throats.
On warm days, the sun decks me out in a shining cloak of sumptuous colors, red, blue, yellow, green. When it rains, my captors quickly confine me in a small dark place: no moon, no stars, no worshipers, no forest canopy, no grapefruit planetarium to shape my dreams. Just night and silence. I tuck myself in and hope for the occasional dream to reach out its hand and extract me from my cell.
Fine weather today. I sit beneath the grapefruit tree and the gringos buzz around me. They push grapes, raisins, bananas, crusts, cigarette butts through the bars of my cage. I scorn them. Gringos, I cry with contempt. Gringos. They clap their hands. Bray with laughter. Sway from side to side splitting their sun-red faces with gold-capped teeth. I eat very little of what they offer. An occasional grape. A chunk of banana. I never take food from their fingers: the temptation to bite the hand that feeds is far too great.
I am learning their language. The compound guards who allow the gringos in and out of the gates that lead to the outside world teach me gringo words. I can now say gringos go home and this makes for much merriment. The gringos slap their sides and double over with strange cackled cries of laughter. Sometimes tears come to their eyes.
I drowse in the sun and recall my childhood on the building site. The workers took me from my forest home, placed a chain on my leg, and tethered me to the broken branch of a leafless tree. At first, I couldn’t understand their speech, but they persisted and bit by bit, I picked up their words. When I repeated them, they laughed. Now, I rarely use them and when I do, the compound guards throw a blanket over my head and carry me back to jail.
I am very careful with what I say. Gringos go home. That is fine. But I rarely say what I really want to say. I want to tell the world how much I love the sunlight as it pierces the leaves and filters down to me, sparking fragmented colors from my frame. My greatest desire is to move in a cloud of many colors, all my family together. I love being part of the crowd-cloud, a voice among voices, all of us in counterpoint and tune. Instead, I sit here, isolated, alone, pining for my brothers and sisters.
Gringos, I want to say, gringos, let me go home.
Today, a great event. One of the gringos has picked up my prison and moved it from under the shade of the grapefruit tree to a new spot beneath the balcony. I now sit directly beneath the geraniums. The gringa who lives long-term on the second-floor waters her flowers regularly.
The gringa grows old and forgetful. She knows she must not water her plants during the day, especially when I am around, but today she is out in the sunshine, forgetful, without her hat, dressed in her dressing-gown and grizzled slippers, with her hair in steel curlers, and a watering can in her hand. Water. It is the symbol of my baptism. It is the element that will release me from my bondage. Water will quench my thirst and free my soul.
I hear the water, the blessed water, falling on the flowers. I hear the water filtering down through the flower pots. I feel the water bouncing off the geranium leaves threading its way down to settle on my back. My mind returns to the building site of my youth.
I remember my childhood friends. Their faces flood back and grow like flowers as the waters flow and I remember every word those old friends said as they ran from the building site to take shelter from the rain that stole their money, stole their livelihoods, and stopped them from working.
Fucking rain, I screech, as the water hits me. Fuck this fucking rain. Fuck this mother-fucking rain.
I hear the sound of running feet followed by voices.
“Gertrude’s watered the parrot as well as the geraniums. He thinks it’s raining.”
“ Quick, fetch his bloody blanket. Shut up, you foul-mouthed parrot.”
Alas, my moment in the spotlight is over. The play is done. The curtain falls. Darkness descends. I tuck my head beneath my wing and before I fall asleep, I squawk one last feather-filled word: