and so the shocking news that woke me today was that our parrot died this morning. her name was buffy. she had just turned three.
my father got her as a present from a friend toward the end of 2003, and in keeping with my obsessions, i gave her the name of my favorite heroine. (later my sister would get a turtle, and would name him spike — in keeping with the theme) it was the first word she would learn to say, her name. the nice thing about parrots was that they talked. the not-so nice - it was that they talked. even at night. our neighbors hated her for it, but we loved her just the same.
truth is i loved her more, or at least, more than any other pet we’ve had (a few dogs i never really got along with, sadly) — and how could i not, when i was the one who gave her her name?
how could i not, when she knew mine?
and so i found myself en route to the manila zoo (after god knows how many years) one saturday afternoon. apparently, auntie had found a way to keep buffy in our lives because, clearly, she had ruled out burying her in our yard. absolutely out of the question, no buffy burial in our yard.
“seriously,” i managed to mumble to krista, who had answered the phone this morning, a somewhat hysterical phone call from auntie who had just found buffy lifeless in her cage. “we’re going to have a wake?”
not really a wake, but it was anything but an immediate burial. not really knowing what to do (why did this have to happen when dad wasn’t around?), auntie had called a funeral parlor, because it was what seemed to be the most practical thing to do, considering the nature of the emergency, only these funeral parlors did not really specialize in pets, but at least the person who answered the phone knew the manila zoo did those kinds of jobs. interesting actually, when you think about it.
buffy, forever alive, only silent. my only fear was that it would be too creepy to have her around like that, looking alive but not quite, but as it is now slowly dawning on me, the emptiness of her cage is a lot more horrifying harrowing than her preserved state could possibly be.
so as it is, the zoology division of the manila zoo did preserve birds — and, um, tigers, arowanas, pets of all sizes. they’d do that to buffy, keep her pretty, mount her on a wooden perch, just like before. auntie would buy a glass case, place it where her cage usually was. we’d put a metal plate outside of it, with her name. (“parang si marcos?” my cousin had quipped. i tried to laugh.)
this was all very serious, it’s surreal. and how my brother cried. auntie’s eyes were practically lining with tears as she recounted to me how my brother had cradled our dead parrot in his arms, moments after the discovery of the body. apparently, dead parrots didn’t smell awful, nor did their bodies immediately stiffen in rigor mortis or anything.
buffy even still had her eyes open, said auntie, but my brother kept on asking her to “wake up” anyway. and we all know now how she never did. the whole image of my brother and buffy ultimately breaks my heart. of course, of the three of us children, he was the one buffy was closest to, in the end. after all, they lived in the same house.
“it was all so sudden,” auntie had sighed. “the night before we (buffy and i) were still talking. before closing the lights, i had even said good night.”
i could almost still hear her crooning just outside, in my head. and how she called me, “ate kate.”
on our way home, i was actually thinking to myself, certainly she was just a pet, and pets die, and that was just a reality we had to accept. we’ll get another one, and i swear i’ll name her after addison (of course it’s imperative it’s a girl-pet, whatever it is, but we’re looking to get another parrot, just because auntie can’t seem to get over the loss) — but as i was entering the house, i was hit by the silence, and i just couldn’t get the ghosts of buffy’s joyful squawks (which was her way of saying “Welcome home, biatches”) out of my head, and that was it.
buffy’s cage is still mounted across a wooden pole in the foyer, and i guess it will take sometime getting used to it being empty and the whole place in general being free of buffy-squawks and the unique way she called out to each of us - daddy, auntie, ate kate, ateta, wylo.
“the person in charge of looking for an embalmer asked for her name,” auntie said on the drive home. and while it was me who gave her her name, it was auntie who gave her ours.