In the most un-me kind of way, I bought two lovebirds back in the fall. I am not a bird person, but my tiny apartment on the 12th floor of a building in the middle of Cairo, with no grass anywhere, did not lend itself to the dog I preferred. The tropical fruit-colored brother/sister pair of mini parrots came into my life on the heels of my six-month Games of Thrones binger, so they were appropriately named Jamie and Cersei. They were born together and lived (incestuously inseparable but also in love) for their entire year of life in a tiny cage in a dimly lit and dirty pet store in downtown Cairo. If I had any reservations about having birds, and I did, they left me completely as I contemplated the much better life I would be able to give them simply by bringing them into my home.
I did my research on lovebirds prior to buying them, and the one thing you read over and over is not to separate a bonded pair. They will die if you do. In fact, if you introduce another bird into a bonded pair, the two of them will gang up together and kill the third bird wheel. It’s an enviable marriage if you think about it. If only humans would…. ok, well maybe we shouldn’t be that extreme, but sometimes…
They were terrified of everything. They didn’t love me, or the apartment, or their new, bigger cage. My research also taught me that a deeply bonded pair of birds might not bond to their owner either. That seemed to be the case with us. I thought I would be able to hold them and have them perch themselves on my fingers and we could talk about our day, but this did not happen.
They sat next to each other 24 hours a day and just glared at me with one cynical, suspicious eye.
So I had to find my reward in knowing I had brought them up from the bottom. They went from the dark streets of Mohandessen to the 12th floor in Zamalek. After they were settled, I saw their new, true personalities come out. Jamie was a biter, kind of an abusive dude, definitely a man who was hard to live with, for all of us. He tried to draw blood when I changed the water, or filled the food bowls. He pushed Cersei off her perch and often blocked her from coming outside of their bird apartment. But Cersei was no pushover; she didn’t like taking his crap. I saw her push back and give as good as she got. I often heard them throwing wings and tying up violently inside their birdhouse. Lovers’ quarrels were common with those two. I wondered why she loved him. Still, they remained deeply bonded and spent most hours of everyday exactly as you see them in this picture…connected at the hip.
I let them outside of their cage every day, and for the first time in their lives, they learned how to fly. What independence! What emancipation! They zipped and zagged all over my apartment, and Jamie was hands down the most adventurous. Cersei was a follower, and never went anywhere unless Jamie went first.
Couple co-dependency at its very finest.
I often put them outside too, stationed safely on a ledge where (12 floors up!) they could get all kinds of fresh air and could watch the Nile River go by, like I also love to do. Then, one afternoon I heard a panicked squawk and looked out to see that Jamie had learned to open the damn door and he was out of the cage, standing nearby on a windowsill all but giving me the middle finger. He had escaped! and Cersei was crying desperately for him.
Jamie never came back. He is out in Zamalek living his best life now, I would imagine. Either that, or he was crow food not too long after he leapt from the ledge that day. I will never know. I worried mostly for Cersei, and that’s who this story is about.
She was a girl who had never known anything but standing by her man, and now, because of his own selfishness, a mid-life crisis, or perhaps just desperation to be out of his relationship, she was learning how to live alone in the world without him.
Everyone told me she would die. The experts gave me suggestions on how to introduce a new male into her life, if she didn’t die, but warned of bringing him in slowly, and in a different cage, and slowly placing them closer and closer together over several weeks. I shook my head and said to myself, no that’s not how it works. I looked at Cersei one day and said, “Girl. I know how to get you over this. I have been through it already. You are a strong, independent woman. You just need time and a good girlfriend, and I am going to be with you every step of the way.”
We remodeled her cage, padding it with the pages of American Vogue. She was upgraded to fresh, peeled strawberries, mangos and other lady-foods. I added a drop of lemon to her water. Her cage is covered with a pink pashmina with Arabic calligraphy written on it, quotes about love and strength, and it sits next to a bookshelf where she can let the lessons of Eat, Pray, Love, Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood, and Aprils and Decembers absorb through her beautiful blue, orange and green feathers and become a part of her.
She did not die. It has been two months without Jamie, still the beginning stages of her great loss. She lives within the boundaries of her new normal now, like we all had to learn how to do once, when we lost someone we loved. I am sure she misses him. He was all she had ever known. But she has found the silver linings in his absence. She can fly faster and farther than ever before. That would never have happened if she had lived her life waiting on Jamie to go first all the time. She has had to learn how to entertain herself, how to self-soothe and how to enjoy quiet, sometimes lonely moments. I think that in time she will see that loneliness will eventually turn into many, many cherished days and nights of being all by herself to do whatever the hell she wants, like sit in the bathroom and admire herself in the mirror for hours at a time, her favorite thing to do at the moment. She knows she has survived the worst already, and she thrives! I might bring her a new man one day, but for now, we make our pretty salads together in our fantastic apartment where loyal girlfriends and fresh strawberries are in great abundance.