Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Affair

This morning, Ty and I had to talk about yesterday. I had walked into the California Pet Center and headed straight for three green-cheeked conures. One was still a baby. I put out my finger, and she delicately climbed aboard. She looked at me and blinked. Uh oh, here we go again . . . my heart burst with incipient love, and my head sounded an emergency alert. I called Ty. I told him to come to the pet store immediately. I was about to bring home Pepita. "No way," he said, and repeated 112 times just in case it didn't sink in the first time. We could not discuss it later. "I will never, EVER, have another bird." I was hurt and beweildered. Pepita was different. She was hand-raised from a chick, and she didn't scream or bite. She could make up for Gracie's bad behavior; she could unite the family, proving that not all conures are bent on destroying marriages.

Fast forward to this morning. After a rough night, Ty and I were sitting outside and I was preparing to upbraid him for losing his cool at Scrabble. "Let's talk about Gracie," he said, voice rising. "You had an affair for two years and five months. Do you have any idea how that feels?" My mouth hung open like I had been struck by idiocy. He made his case for the affair analogy. It made sense. I catered to Gracie's every whim. I lavished affection on her, leaving Ty bereft on the couch. Gracie was my constant companion, and if anyone came near me, especially Ty, she would lunge. I belonged to Gracie; I was her mate. I didn't realize it, but with hindsight I see that it's true. She had effectively pushed Ty aside in order to monopolize my time and my affection. She accomplished her goal without me ever fully understanding it.

"I hated that bird. Imanya hated that bird. She was obnoxious, nasty and divisive." Ty poured out his true feelings for Gracie, and I realized to what extent I had used Gracie to keep some emotional distance in my marriage. Do all bird lovers do this? I wonder. Do pets become an excuse to keep intimacy at bay, because it's easier to love an animal than a human? Perhaps.

My grief is now tempered by the reality of how Gracie's presence affected my husband. Now I'm not so sure what I would do if she flew back. I would take her in, but we'd have to come to a new understanding. I'm not her mate. I need to think about why I was so willing to allow her to believe it.

Kirsten A. Thorne

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