‘Yeah, I like birds, so what? Just because I have a thing about them, don’t believe it, that’s another story. There’s stuff that won’t let me sleep, I’m warning you. Recently I’ve started getting up at night, going to the kitchen, grabbing the sharpest knife I can find and then heading straight for the exit with the aim of sticking the knife in the chest of whoever has hurt me at some point in my life. I have to be restrained because I’m out of my mind. There are times I even have to be tied with ropes until I calm down, just in case I succumb to another fit… I want you to know that accepting my friendship means belonging to a high-risk group because, I’m telling you, when I fly off the handle…’
I had to intimidate them somehow. School had turned into a place where I was failing on a daily basis. Every morning, when I went in, I looked at those walls and felt like running away, as if from fire. Putting up with all the abuse day after day was pretty hard, and there was no way I was going to bother my mother with all that nonsense. I quickly realized that at school it was your appearance that mattered.
When they found out I had a bird in my rucksack, I couldn’t let them spread that rumour about me being a softie, I couldn’t stand being humiliated all over again, so I used the same methods as Raúl Pernas and his gang. I put on a show. As a result of my outburst, there were fewer jokes, that’s for sure. As for Halima, she deserved an explanation, but where am I supposed to begin? Do I tell her, ‘The point is I’m a kind of swift, living in the air all the time, and if I fall to the ground, I need a helping hand to help me take flight again,’ or say, ‘It’s just I’m tired of playing the autistic parrot my grandpa saved’?
That parrot from Patagonia was never in its right mind. Maybe that’s why it never wanted to leave the house. It was always moulting and had permanent bald patches behind its head. It was a bad-tempered bird that didn’t know the right way to go about asking for things. Maybe it was because of its chronic illness that grandpa adopted it for his own private field hospital.
The bird was spoiled and had a free licence to enter the house, wander about the kitchen, go wherever it liked. I only had to sit down to breakfast for it to demand a ration of cake with shouts that sounded like insults. We called it Captain Flint, after Long John Silver’s parrot.
Shortly before dying, and despite its lamentable state, that greedy, autistic parrot caught sight of my breakfast bowl and immediately demanded something sweet with deafening screeches. Then it followed me to the bathroom and stood stock-still on the rail. It reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, I could hear its ‘Nevermore’ as it extracted a sad smile from my fantasies that burned inside my chest. It was like a dry leaf waiting for a breeze to send it down into the abyss. I drew the curtain and, at that precise moment, it fell to the ground. It started shrinking, shrinking… just like a balloon losing all of its air. It put on a scarf, as Grandpa Guillerme would say, and that was the end of that. I suffered terribly!
Should I explain all of this to Halima? I haven’t even dared ask her the meaning of what she wrote in my notebook.
There’s only one girl I can talk to openly. That’s Dove I chat to on the Internet. Until today, Dove was the sea, the water in all its immensity, the beyond, freedom… I imagined her walking on the surface of the waves, her hair adorned with seaweed. She’s clever, she knows how to say the right thing. ‘In a way you’re lucky,’ she told me when I was suffering because of grandpa, ‘I never knew my grandparents.’ That made me think… Dove was the friendly voice that reached me through the computer’s loudspeaker, but now I’m supposed to meet her in person, and I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
Halima… Halima’s more tangible, she’s the seashore where the foam sends kisses, the salt of the sea perhaps…
Translated from Galician by Jonathan Dunne