Empty Nest

Empty Nest

Just outside my French window, in the butter-popcorn rays of the winter sun, he’s there, looking at me. Soulful eyes. Shining body. Alert tail, darting occasionally. All day. Watching me work. I am not sure what’s going on in his mind. When does he eat or drink? I don’t know. All I know is that he’s my colour-changing Romeo who will always be there.

He first appeared when a bird was building a nest on the pole of my garden umbrella. The bird and its partner would fly in with twigs and tuck them according to their architectural blueprint. A beautiful, round nest started shaping up. I would watch it quietly, hiding behind my half-drawn curtains. That’s when I saw Romeo first. He would be watching me watch the nest.

Then, one fine day, the birds disappeared, leaving behind a fully-constructed nest. Did they abandon it? Did they spot me and got worried? Do I look like an egg-stealing monster? Romeo also looked confused. Then, both of us looked at each other with suspicion. Did he scare the birds away? I was angry at him, he at me. It was our first lover’s tiff, you can say.

After a few days, one bird started coming back. Occasionally. Perched near the nest, she would stare at it, hop around it. Then, fly away. Where was the other bird? And, why was this one coming only once in few days? Was she re-thinking the relationship? Maybe, she wasn’t ready for a commitment. I had no idea. And, I couldn’t find any book called, Male Birds are from Nests in Mars and Female Birds are From Nests in Venus. Maybe, the length of the title was longer than what Kindle allowed.

Anyway, the confusion was over soon. Both birds moved in and I could see a few shiny eggs peeping through the twigs! I was ecstatic. I smiled at Romeo. He smiled back. Uhh, well, he flicked his tongue. That can be counted as a smile, can’t it?

A tender story ensued: the birds tending to the eggs, Romeo and I watching them, then each other. One cloudy morning, when I peeped out, four little baby birdies were seen. I jumped with joy. Romeo flicked his tongue. Each day, I watched those babies grow, their chirps getting stronger, their tiny wings fluttering in practice.

One day, much to my shock, the nest was empty. The little birdies were missing! They couldn’t have flown. They were still babies. I looked at Romeo. Suspicion returned. Had he harmed them? What was he doing here, in any case?, I thought angrily. He must have planted himself for this mission. He was a cruel baby-bird eater. Disgusting fellow. And, to think that I had feelings for him? I hated him. Every bit of him now. He looked at me, like he was saying, I haven’t done anything. The birdies just grew up and flew away.

‘What’s happening, mamma? Looking at your lover boy again?’ laughed my daughter.
‘Those little birds…’, I whispered, ‘I think he ate them. They were so tiny, so helpless. They’re gone.’
‘They just grew up and flew away, mamma! Get used to it’, she said handing me her college application form to sign.

(Best-selling author Rachna Singh is a sit-down comedienne)

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