He worries about his mother reciting a list of salad leaves at her apartment door, about the silvering of the hairs at his temple and on his chin, and about the 12,000 green parakeets that shouldn’t be here.
‘What if they ate all the other birds?’ my partner asks me, eyes wide, and I can’t tell if he means it.
I resist the urge to pull out my phone and ask it if green parakeets are killer carnivores: do they rip other birds from their nests and fling their eggs to the ground, squawking in flamboyant triumph?
We walk through the park every night that we are in Madrid. Parakeets swoop over our heads one by one and two by two. I haven’t seen another bird in a while, now that I think about it, maybe they DO eat other birds, what do I know? Only an hour ago we were with Uncle Tomàs para tomar un café, not thinking about invasive sky species. Tomàs loves model trains and planes and still has a handsome set of encyclopaedias in pride of place in the sitting room – maybe we could have asked him to look up the parakeets. I’ve never seen anyone in his family smoke, but somehow everyone has an ashtray on the coffee table. Tomàs has three – two of clear crystal, delicately cut, and one larger transparent blue ash tray with eight notches for resting your cigarette butts. Is it for you and eight bad habits, or you and seven friends?
‘Hey, what do you think?’ he asks while we walk, noticing I’m frowning because I’m wondering who uses all the ashtrays and maybe if we kill and stuff one of these little green beasties we can bring it to Tomàs who will paint it like one of his models and place it between the war planes and the model of Sagrada Familia opposite the encyclopaedia collection.
‘I hear the city council culls them sometimes,’ I say as we turn a corner toward the center of the park. A little white dog with an oversized underbite bears its teeth at us because he doesn’t like my partner’s beard, but can’t decide if he can muster a whole bark so he just sticks his lower lip out farther and growls on the way by.
‘Little shit,’ he says, almost growling back at the dog.
Madrid is beautiful this time of year, but it’s extremely hot. The city lies in the center of a dry plateau. Most people, if they have a choice, spend the middle hours of the day inside until the sun sets and the air cools. I marvel at the number of people in the park after dark: old folks, young folks, slow movers and fast joggers, people whose skin has been sun kissed for so many years it’s begun to crinkle the corners of their eyes and crooks of their arms. A little smattering of humanity just walking in circles after dark.
We walk silently for a time.
Two swallows land on the back of the nearest bench and I grab his arm and almost whoop out loud, unable to contain my excitement that the world isn’t ending.
Brittany Thomas was born and raised in upstate New York and currently lives in London. Her other writing appears in Contingent Magazine, The Daily Drunk Magazine, and Queerlings. You can find her on Twitter @britomatic.