Friday, January 7, 2011

Fellow Creatures - Wright Morris

For 28 months, I lived in a small room in a small town in Romania. The room was in a student dormitory. I guess you could say that the room, rather my living space, was divided into three spaces. There was a small entrance hall. Small meaning 3 feet by 5 feet. Immediately off of the entrance hall was my bathroom. 3 feet by 8 feet. Just enough for a toilet, sink and bathtub. Walking forward from the entrance hall, you would step into my living quarters…my room. The room served as my kitchen, bedroom and study space.
Life was tough at times in this little space. It was freezing in the winter, broiling in the summer and there was at least one mosquito in the room biting me throughout the entire year. At one point, I held off an invasion of about half a dozen mice. I used a wooden kitchen spatula to defend my territory.
Early on during my time in the room, I was set upon by the devils of loneliness. The only thing that kept them at a distance was a few beers which would allow me to drift off into a pleasant slumber forgetting that I was very ALONE.
As the first winter was setting in, M and I took a trip to Iasi. As we walked down a street towards the train station we passed a small pet store.

It was in this store that I found a friend that would pull me through some dark days of my life in Romania and who would later connect M’s parents to us after our departure…acting as our presence in their newly empty nest.
He was a small white parakeet we named Bolfic (chubby cheeks).
Bolfic was plucked from his nice warm home in a large cage with about 50 other birds and slammed into a small cage, alone, thrust into the cold October air, transported by train back to Negresti and placed upon my table in my bedroom. Bolfic sat in his 1 foot by one foot square cage for about a month. I provided food and water for him and after a few short days, he seemed to be comfortable in his surroundings. He would chirp in the mornings and was nice and quiet during the evenings.
One day, late in November, I had the rare visit from some friends from another town. The girl who accompanied my friend walked into my room, and after the expected “oh…how cute…you have a little bird”, she opened the cage and allowed Bolfic to fly from his cage.
It was seconds into my protestations that she set upon me scolding me for not allowing the bird just a little bit of freedom.
It was the best thing that could have been done for the little guy.
For the rest of his life, Bolfic enjoyed a bit of freedom that most “domesticated” birds never see. He was allowed to fly about my room, sit on M’s head, and when he was hungry, he realized that he would still have his freedom even if he returned to the inside of his cage to eat a few seeds.
This little bird, in a way helped right me…kept me a bit sane. Was a presence when I walked back to my cold room after a hard day of teaching.
He had a personality, and was rugged.
When M and I got married, I moved into her parent’s apartment. Bolfic came with me. Her parents came to really love the little guy.
It was obvious that when we moved to the States, we would be leaving Bolfic.
Right away, he acted as a stand-in for us.
During our weekly phone calls back to RO, we would ask about him and he parents would carry on telling us stories about his latest misbehaviors.
M’s father would play the flute for him and feed him corn puffs.
He kept M’s mom company during the long dark cold days of wither while her husband was out working.
He had become their “child”.
Well, as it happens to all living things, he died one day.
It’s sad, because I can’t remember exactly when this happened.
I think we found out about his death through M’s brother. He mentioned it off hand during a conversation.
We immediately called her parents, and they explained that yes, Bolfic died.
They said he was flying about the room and hit a wall…they supposed that he broke his neck.
He died doing what he loved…simply flying.
From a crowded cold cage in Iasi, to a small cold room in a student apartment and finally, into a warm loving room in a Romanian bloc, Bolfic brought love and comfort.

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