I don’t ask for much. All I need is a perch and some sunlight and the chance to sing! People think birds are trapped in cages, but the truth is cages are safe. Outside are dogs and cats and rain and cold and there’s people that grab you and no food to eat and the water is dangerous and there are other birds. Bigger birds. They won’t let me sing.
How do I know all this? I escaped once. I had a family, a mate. She was beautiful. She had a name, but to me she was just a face, a body, a warm thing to nuzzle with and clean my feathers. One day we were sitting outside sunning ourselves when the cage door failed. She managed to open it!
Being young and foolish, we flew away! I made it over the fence and past the trees! I soared higher and higher! But my mate struggled to stay aloft. Her wings weren’t as strong as mine. A dog grasped her in his teeth. I heard a loud scream–birds can scream. If you didn’t know that, you haven’t heard one terrified for its life. Then she was no more. I was free, but I didn’t feel like singing. Then I found out the world wasn’t a fun place to be free in. I saw another cage sitting in the backyard so I landed on top of it, hoping they would take me in. The family did for a bit and then I met a new family. They didn’t try to touch me. They just left me alone in my safe haven. My cage. Once I was grabbed, manhandled, and frightened, but a nice lady whispered to me and I felt better. She clipped my wings. I didn’t care. I would never go back out there again.
At first people tried to hold me. I’d hop to another perch. Usually I could evade them by ducking around my toys. They were nice. They just wanted to be my friend, but sometimes they would grab me–not gently at all! I would scream. Eventually they stopped trying.
There was a music box in the room. Colors would flash across it and thousands of voices would sound and songs would play. I’d sing along and answer the voices. At night everything went dark at once, and in the morning when they pulled back the night, the sun flooded in. At first they forgot to pull back the dark and I would sit in the dark until late in the day.
They got better at remembering after a while.
I would have been bored and lonely and sad if it wasn’t for the love of my life. She sat on the side of the cage, and there was a perch right in front of her usual spot. She wasn’t as soft as my old friend from my other home, and I couldn’t nuzzle up to her, but we spend hours gazing into each others eyes. I whistled to her, but she never whistled back. She never kissed me back with the same passion I gave her, but she made me less lonely and I was in love.
Then one day they took her from me. They put their hands in again, as if I could love their hands as much as I loved the love of my life. I resisted, fled from their hands. They retreated and left me. For the first time since I had been in the wild, I was alone. It was a horrible, horrible feeling. No one was there to imitate my movements. I clung to the side of the cage, where she used to be, but there was no use. No beautiful, silent bird was there for me to kiss. I cried. I gave up hope.
I didn’t sing.
It was time for the darkness to fall over the world for the night. I was tired, but I couldn’t sleep. I held tight to the bars waiting for her, hoping she would come back. Instead of the darkness, though, a hand came in. It brought my love back to me! They must have felt sorry they had taken her away because once again, the love of my life was on the side of the cage, looking back at me like she used to.
I kissed her hard, glassy face and whistled into her listening but silent ear. She didn’t need to say anything, but I could tell she loved me too.