The Parakeets of Doom

by Site Author

“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.”
–Chinese Proverb

The birds appeared soon afterwards. I would be going about my day—brushing my teeth, cooking breakfast, walking to work—and suddenly I’d be surrounded: flapping wings blinding me, squawking beaks in my ears, surrounded by feathers.

But if I waved my hands, the birds would disappear. It took so little to shoo them away. Even just a glance would make them vanish. Then, later, they’d be back.

The birds followed me like this for years. I couldn’t shake them. They would arrive at the most inconvenient times: while I was in an important meeting, while I was talking to friends. Without warning, I’d have to deal with that horrific sound and with their smell.

I was embarrassed that the birds were around at all. They should have been long gone, and yet here they were. I was certain that no one else faced such a problem. It was my secret, my daily shame.

And so I spent three years trying to get them to leave for good. I’d yell and scream and wave my hands. Each and every time they’d scatter. But then they always came back.

I searched for books about the birds. I made trips to the library, carefully holding books’ covers against my chest so that no one would know about my secret bird problem.

The books helped. I learned that the birds were parakeets. I learned to distinguish them by their tails, to tell the common budgerigar from the monks and the rosellas.

I realized that the birds only came at certain times. It was in a moment of weakness or frustration that they would arrive. Something would break inside of me, and my scared monkey mind would toss around birdseed as a distraction. The birds, no matter how irritating, were easier to handle than the present moment.

Over time, my relationship with the parakeets changed. They never left for good. In fact, they still come back to visit every now and then. But these days, I don’t mind the visits.