Mr. and Mrs. Parrot

Editor’s note: Dr. Lois Goodwill is a retired clinical psychologist and co-author, with the late Don Asher,Lois Goodwill of Entangled: A Chronicle of Late Love, a memoir in two voices released by Heyday in July. Born in Montreal, Canada, she holds degrees from McGill University in Montreal and the Wright Institute in Berkeley. She enjoys attending theater and symphony performances and volunteer work. She is an enthusiastic hiker and walker. She is the mother of four children and grandmother of eleven. She lives in San Francisco.

Who would have thought to witness such a sight in cool gray San Francisco. Aren’t these intended to be tropical birds? Apparently not. There is more than one flock in her city and numerous others far away from the tropics; even a sharp green flock spotted against the snow on a white winter’s day in Hyde Park, Chicago.

When the light shifts, their silhouettes are colored in; their vivid plumage startling against the drab gray green of those swaying palm fronds. The noise is raucous, endless. Is she scolding him? Is he angry with her? Are they even a he and a she? This is the neighborhood above the Castro; this is the gender-bending 2011 era. Why assign gender to the loquacious creatures. Why? Because she is a she and despite her many solitary pleasures, hidden not so deep below the surface, beneath the defenses of humor and intellectual inquiry there is a lonely being who just sometimes longs for a he.

She went alone to a  museum exhibit late one afternoon last week. From there she went on to a solitary and pleasurable dinner at a tea room above the Martin Luther King commemorative waterfall at Yerba Buena Gardens. ( “No. I am alone; a table for myself, please.”) Her simple supper done and the check paid, she emerged into a summer evening with hours of daylight left. Time to saunter leisurely to a theatrical presentation at a downtown library / café where she bought a ticket ( “Just one, please”). The theatrical presentation was staged cabaret style ( “one glass of chardonnay, please”). She watched a series of couples and friends seat themselves, preen in their Saturday evening theater finery, animatedly chat about the dinners they had enjoyed, the museum exhibits they had attended. She recognized another solitary theater-goer, a man who she had met in a movie lobby with a mutual friend some years back. They engaged in polite conversation; no spark. He turned his attention to a woman beside him, a bookseller with a shop in his neighborhood and their dialogue became lively.

The performance ended, the applause subsided and she took a bus home.  She wished the bus driver “good-night” and climbed the hill to her house in happy anticipation of her first night on the newly purchased mattress that had been delivered earlier that afternoon. Ahhh! Lovely new bed! She stretched out in all directions, arms and legs akimbo to enjoy all that lovely space to herself. She slept well enough,  roused herself in the early morning light to go for an early workout at her gym followed by a solitary breakfast, a shower and then suddenly the parrots were there. Loud, shrill, endlessly conversing on their palm perch. She descended the hill in her summer dress, took the bus and BART to join a friend for a matinee at a distant theater, returning home alone, tired and chilled in the late afternoon.

A smile crossed her face but there was no one to see her pleasure. No one to share her anticipation of a second night on the new mattress. No one to chatter endlessly with about the doings of the day; no one to counter her reflections of the stories in the next morning’s Sunday New York Times. No one for whom to pour a glass of the lovely Cabernet – Syrah blend bought on a  solo trip to a country sculpture exhibit that concluded at a winery. That trip had been many solitary months ago.

So many independent excursions. So many pleasures not interrupted by consideration for another. No outings denied because another wasn’t interested; no other to silently reproach her for not choosing to accompany him on his choice of activity. Or that was what she told herself. But somewhere behind, beneath, below, lurking in the shadow of those defenses, there echoed the joyous shared squawks, the incessant dialogue of the parrot pair.

Their vivid plumage was the sharp green color of her momentary envy.