Friending Peaches: What a Cockatoo Taught Me About Self-Love
I was walking down 79th street on the Upper East Side, on my way to the dermatologist to get a sun spot removed that had appeared on my cheek. It isn't cancerous, but I feel like it ages me and it's the only thing I see when I look in the mirror. So I'm walking down the street and this woman is walking toward me with a very large, peach-colored cockatoo on her shoulder. As we passed each other her cell phone rang and she said, "Excuse me. Can you hold my bird?" I looked around. Was she talking to me? She stared at me for a second, then huffed in annoyance at my two-seconds of confusion and said, "Just put your arm out!" in a tone that suggested if I didn't put my arm out right this second she might punch me in the face.
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So I put my arm out and this imposing bird with claws almost as big as my hand hops onto my wrist and proceeds to sidle up my arm and sit on my shoulder.
It was like someone saying, "Surprise! You're a pirate!"
The bird was heavier than I expected. Not quite like having a dog on my shoulder, but maybe a cat. And she was very tall. Like maybe the height of a cat sitting on the shoulders of another cat. I wanted to look at her because it’s not every day you have a cockatoo sitting on you, but I was afraid if I looked up she might gouge out my eyeballs with her very large, sharp-looking beak. I decided to pick a point on the street and stare at that. I fixed my eyes on the bus stop and hoped Peaches hadn't been to any Hitchcock festivals lately.
A few minutes went by and Pushy McCellphone was still yapping away like she was in her living room, so the bird decided that she and I should get to know each other. She told me her name was Peaches and that she was seven years old, and also that she was pretty. My first thought was Well, aren’t we a little full of ourselves? But then I caught myself and thought No, you know what? Why shouldn't she feel good about herself? Good for you, Peaches. I wish I had your confidence. I told her I had an appointment and that I hoped her owner would get off the phone soon.
I told her I had this spot on my cheek that was really bugging me and made me feel self-conscious. Peaches gripped my shoulder a little tighter with her claws, and stretched the top of her body up and over my head so that I was wearing her like a pair of earmuffs. "I love you." she said. We stayed in this magical bird hug for a minute or two, then suddenly her owner whisked her off my shoulder with a half-hearted, "Thanks" and hurried away. Peaches turned her head 180 degrees and looked at me longingly. Then she disappeared into the New York crowds. Peaches, if you're out there, friend me.