Friday, November 6, 2009

True Love

There is someone else who will be devastated by La Moustache's impending departure. Someone who, like me, considered Moustache to be the love of his life, and who is entirely dedicated to him. That someone is our little pet lovebird, Green Bean.

We bought Bean nearly two years ago, in February 2007. We purchased him at a pet store in the far north of Manhattan, where English is like a second language to Spanish. The people in the shop used gestures and broken English to explain how to take care of him. Given his origins, I wanted to name him Pollito, or Little Chicken in Spanish; La Moustache voted for Poupoule, which means the same in French. We kept going back and forth like this, but finally after a week or so we were able to agree on Haricot, the French word for bean.

When you purchase a parrot at a pet store, it does not come tame, and Green Bean was no exception. He was terrified of us, and clung helplessly to a pinata toy hanging from the top of his cage, refusing to come out. I sat next to the cage and talked to him and read him the newspaper, and La Moustache enticed him out with yummy seeds. It took a long time, but eventually Bean came to trust us so much that he lets us pet him like a cat, turning his head from side to side appreciatively and closing his eyes. He likes to cuddle under our chins and snuggle down for a nap. On weekends, we used to enjoy lolling around in bed in the mornings, and would bring Bean in to play hide and seek with us under the covers.

At a certain point, it became clear that he did not love us equally. There is a reason, of course, why lovebirds are called that. Green Bean had made his choice of mate, and it was not me. He was happy to spend time with me when La Moustache wasn't around, but the instant he arrived in the door, Bean flew to him like a moth to a flame. Moustache took to calling him “my little glue” because of the way Bean stuck to him. Not only did Green Bean want to be nearby, he wanted to be as close as humanly possible, and would dive inside Moustache's sweater and crawl around happily in there, occasionally poking his head out of the neckhole like a prairie dog before diving back in.

Lovebirds have some funny mating habits, and Green Bean tried them all out on La Moustache. He wanted desperately to express his love by regurgitating his food to him. The first few times he did it, we wondered if he was having an asthma attack; he would sit on Moustache's shoulder and dry heave, panting heavily and hoping against hope that Moustache would finally open his mouth to receive Bean's gift. Lovebirds also have a mating ritual called “the clicky dance,” which Bean does for Moustache at least once a day. He demonstrates his prowess as a mate by flapping his wings and calling out loudly and by moving his body quickly back and forth in front of Moustache, sometimes running and sometimes hopping. At the same time, he makes a clicky sound with his beak. The clicky sound is apparently very sexy to lovebirds, but the downside of it is that the vibrations from the clicks make him itchy, so he has to pause his dance frequently to scratch his face. Again, when this first started we were not sure what to make of it, and wondered if we should call the vet.

One day I was home alone, and was thrilled when Bean started doing the clicky dance. I texted La Moustache excitedly to let him know that Bean finally considered me to be mate material. A moment later I realized the sad truth when Bean mounted on a plastic toy ball and attempted to mate with it as it rolled around awkwardly beneath him.

Green Bean is sad when either of us goes away, and even when we are only gone for the weekend he welcomes us back excitedly and affectionately. I wonder if he thinks of us when we are not there, and how he will feel when he realizes that Moustache is not just away for a few days.

I am moving to a new city shortly, and am facing the prospect of being a single mom to our little bird in a place where I don't have a lot of friends who I can use as birdsitters. For a time, when I thought about how difficult it would be to take weekend trips or even stay out late at night, I considered finding a new home for Green Bean. Ultimately, I decided that this would be unthinkable. I recently purchased a travel cage for Bean, and checked Amtrak's pet policy (not a problem). I hope to be able to take lots of weekend trips and bring my little one along. And who knows, maybe I'll get lucky and find a roommate who will like him and be willing to take care of him sometimes. Plus Moustache is pushing for joint custody after his return - we'll see about that.

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