901: Free at Last
I remember the day I received my first pair of pets from my parents, two beautiful parakeets. I remember the dazzling sight of green, blue, yellow, and white feathers and the pure bliss I felt. I remember the squeal of excitement that I had been unable to stifle and the gratefulness I felt for my parents. It was love at first sight. I can still see my parakeets and hear their magnificent squawks. Still picture them half-dancing, half-flying around their cage with their heads held high and wings partly spread out. It was a joy for me to just watch them, one of the best joys I’ve ever experienced.
Weeks passed by, but I never got tired of my lovely parakeets. I still had those moments when I squatted down beside them in silence. I never wanted it to change; however, despite my wishes, it did.
One day after school, I came home to find an unpleasant surprise waiting for me. As I made my way to my birds’ cage, I stopped short. Pure shock mingled with horror as I stood wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the sight before me. Disbelief crashed over me like big waves crashing over a ship stuck in a tempest. The sight was simply unbelievable. For in that cage, there was one bird perched on the bar in the cage and the other lying dead on the ground.
“It wasn’t your fault,” my mom persisted. “It really wasn’t your fault.”
I forced a weak smile and took a deep breath, trying in vain to blink back yet another stream of tears. I then retreated into my room, locking the door behind me.
“It’s not my fault,” I repeated to myself later, in whispers, as I sat huddled in a corner of my room. “It’s not my fault.”
I slowly climbed out of my grief over the next few days and started regaining my usually cheerful, lighthearted manner, although I still felt as if a piece of my heart had been chipped off. However, I did notice something very unusual. The bird that I had left kept looking sad, gloomy, and depressed. It no longer pranced about in the cage, nor did it spread out its wings for us to admire. Instead, it just sat there motionless, perched on the bar, staring back at me as if it were telling me something. It seemed to me that it yearned for something outside the confinements of its cage, that it wished with all its heart to be out there flying through the sky like a bird should. That image of it gazing at me with those glossy, deep, hopeful-looking eyes was fixed into the back of my head. I realized that it wanted me to set it free.
A while later, I creaked open the door to my room and started walking straight towards the cage containing my precious bird. With a heavy heart, I picked it up and reluctantly reached for the door of the cage. For a second there, I hesitated. Negative thoughts raced through my mind as I thought about giving up. I was torn between the desires to keep my bird and set it free. In the end, concern for the wellbeing of my parakeet overruled the opposing thoughts. With a sudden spurt of determination, I yanked the cage door open.
In a flash, my bird was out of the cage and soaring out in the sky. It was a beautiful sight. Bold rays of cotton-candy pink, striking orange, and fiery red streaked the sky as my dear parakeet flew towards the horizon, into the setting sun. I watched, a little blissfully and a little wistfully, with a sad little smile tugging at the corner of my mouth as the flying speck grew smaller and smaller. Even after it had long disappeared, I kept my gaze staring fixedly at the place where I last saw the shadow of what was once my parakeet.
Two years have passed since then. I would still stop and stare inadvertently at the empty cage tucked away in a dusty corner of the balcony when I walk past it, being reminded again and again of my two parakeets. But the most important consequence of this event was that I learned a new definition for the word “love” that changed my entire perspective. Love for someone, from this experience, meant that you cared for someone more that you cared about yourself, that you would do whatever it takes to make that special one happy. You would want to give them what’s best for them to the extent that you’d be willing to let them go. Yes, I learned that if you truly loved someone, you’d be willing to let them go for their own freedom and happiness.