|"My what shiny teeth you have?"|
The dictionary defines “polyamory” as the practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time. If only my life were that simple.
When my daughter Lucia left home, she forgot to take the bird. Blue-headed, green-feathered and red-rumped, Vivi didn’t understand why she couldn’t follow her love to college. Scheduling was the issue. Vivi was awake during the day when student sleeping-through-class happened and nodding off when college partying-while-studying began. Besides there was the risk of her being the central character in the bird-in-the-microwave prank we’d been seeing on social media. I tried to fill the void by spending time teaching Vivi tricks, rewarding her with treats and eventually she bonded with me and showered me with the classic bird love gesture: regurgitation.
Our nest felt empty, so my husband Stephen and I filled it with ballroom dance lessons. The dining room/cage room was the only place with hardwood floors where our dance shoes would slide. We’d get in position, turn on the music and sway: Step – step, back step; step – step, back step; step – step.
“SQUAWK BLOODY MURDER!”
And cue regurgitation.
Kissing Stephen was considered as dance-like and had to take place on the sly; ducking around corners or covering the bird cage. Otherwise, we would risk a warning growl from 350 grams of furious parrot. I enjoyed the secrecy.
At some point I got talked into adding to our ménage à trois with a rescue lab we named Coltrane. He would look directly into Vivi’s cage and the battle line was drawn. During quiet times, Coltrane would slink away from us and tip-toe under the cage to fill up his stomach with her detritus of discarded fruit and she would give him the stink eye.
Coltrane loved me best – at least when Stephen was not around. The dog preyed upon my divided loyalties; he would bring me his ball, his head cocked just as I was entering the cage room for parrot play. Vivi noticed.
We continued to live in denial of my divided loyalties with a morning ritual that looked like détente. Coltrane would enter his kennel and stay while I sprang Vivi from her night covering for breakfast al fresco. I would occasionally forget some necessary item and wander away into the kitchen. One morning, I had meandered by the kitchen sink when I heard a continuous SQUAWKING cacophony that sent me bounding into the pet room to see what Coltrane had finally done to Vivi.
The dog was frozen in his tracks, paw uplifted and entering the forbidden food garrison under Vivi’s cage, this time the stink eye was aimed in my direction with no requisite regurgitation of love. The spell was broken as was the détente. She may have told on him, but now I was the enemy.