Give us a kiss...

2011 // by Katrin Alvarez

My mother would have much preferred a parrot, but she gave birth to me instead.
For a while she kept up this hope, eyeing me closely each morning for any sign of feathers. Was my  skin turning downy after all?

And it certainly wasn't easy to find ever larger cages for me. I simply grew and grew and grew.

During the daytime I'd usually squat on a
perch and recite the phrases drilled into me:
"Give us a kiss! Mother dear, give us a kiss!"
At night she would cover my chatter with a cloth.

One morning when, as always, she stuck her finger through the bars, I couldn't resist taking a sharp bite. I was already fifteen by then and had developed a powerful set of teeth, thanks to the constant chewing on seeds.

"Well, that's a great start to the week!" she snapped, sucking her finger reproachfully. "You've grown up into a really ungrateful bird. And I change your water every day!"

My cage was shrouded as a punishment, and I had to spend two whole days in the dark.
It wasn't until my eighteenth birthday that I felt bold enough to string together the words I had furtively gleaned and tell her the truth. I quite calmly crowed back into her big round face:
"I've had enough of this nonsense! I'm no more a parrot than you're a forget-me-not!"

My mother recoiled, cloaking herself in a continuous, vile scream. She became smothered by her own screeching and finally suffocated.

It later took some time before I had stopped causing a stir by crouching on the ground with the arms always closely tucked in at my sides. Or by overturning chairs when I wanted to perch on the backrest.

These days I wear stilettos, and I nibble on gummy-bears instead of seeds. But I still like to sneak into the zoo during the night at weekends. The macaws, cockatoos, the grey and red-browed parrots, they all show endless patience with my recurring identity crisis and let me take a seat for a few hours on my beloved perch.