Marlon Brando’s “STELLA!” had nothing on my primal call. I’d been scouring the streets of West LA all afternoon. The edges of my big toes were smarting with blisters, my throat was begging for a tune-up and my eyes craved tears that had dried out hours ago. Twilight was coming. If I didn’t find my bird soon, I wouldn’t find her at all.
“Jo-Jo. Where are you?” I sobbed. The wind shifted and I turned, but instead of being greeted by a familiar squawk and dainty cockatiel talons on my shoulder as I’d hoped, I was mauled by kisses from a Berenese Mountain dog.
“Mufasa! Get back here!” The voice belonged to a tall, shaggy-haired LA hipster, the type who always has a guitar or a PBR beer in hand.
Crap, I thought. If only my mascara weren’t smeared and I had color on my lips. Because Mufasa’s owner was just how I liked my men. Artsy, appropriately dirty and dark skinned enough to transmogrify any imperfections into handsome.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind.
I’d rescued my cockatiel from an I-405 off-ramp six years before. After a bit of discussion she crawled up my hand and onto my shoulder where she happily perched…until the day my cleaning lady opened her cage, stole her eggs and sent her flying out the door in fright.
Two months prior to my bird’s vanishing, I had ended a tumultuous relationship made up of equal parts manipulation and passion. My ex hated my bird and insisted I get rid of it. I didn’t, and the irony that I no longer had the man—or the bird—was not lost on me. Which is why, even in the midst of my turmoil, I was so aware of my instant attraction to this shaggy-haired stranger. Maybe he would bring some meaning to it all?
“I lost my bird,” I choked, as he came to collect his dog. “If you could keep an eye out for her.”
He tossed back a long, drawn out “sure,” his eyes quizzical, as though he didn’t know what to make of me.
A few days later I received a text. “I’m the musician with the dog. I saw your flyers. Did you find your bird?”
My heart beat faster than my fingers could type and the messages quickly escalated to the “romantic” kind. I was cautious but encouraged the texting tete-a-tete. He was effusive…
“You took my breath away. When I saw you, I couldn’t speak. It was like seeing a part of me from another life…like seeing my old liver.”
He thought we could be soulmates. He described the meals he’d make me when he got back to town…the adventures that awaited us. A trip to the desert, a lifetime of love.
And I indulged in that fantasy. Perhaps there’s a reason why my bird flew away? A greater purpose she is leading me to? Perhaps it is this man!
There were, however, a few things niggling at me. Not that he compared me to a liver from his past life—I thought that was pretty romantic—but that he never once picked up the phone and called. Of course, I make him speechless, so perhaps that’s why, I reasoned.
And then there was the age thing. It’s confusing in Los Angeles. The women always look younger due to Botox and fillers, and the men always look older due to alcohol, drugs and facial hair. If we truly were soulmates, then what’s a decade between us, right?
Wrong. A decade took me from soulmate to “neighbor lady with benefits” in just one text.
Imagine someone tempting you with a peanut butter-filled cheesecake all whipped up and pretty, and then snatching it away before your first bite.
I was determined to get my bite, so when the musician came back to town I invited him over. He didn’t ring the bell until 3 am, and he smelled of alcohol and cigarettes. We hugged, his body soft and undefined, definitely not my preferred “cheesecake.”
We sat on my bed and he strummed his guitar. He fiddled with his pack of cigarettes as he told me how he’d had cancer as a teenager and almost died. I wondered why he kept tempting the Devil.
He asked for a Tarot reading. I pulled three cards: The Devil, The Hanged Man and Death. I wouldn’t be able to spin this reading positively, so instead, I kissed him, suffocating under all the softness, the nicotine and the beer-tinged breath. Once I drew the bases, he suddenly became worried about his dog.
I saw him out, thankful for the taste test. At least I had closure and there would be no if onlys. Was there something to learn from our meet-cute? Yes, keep it real. And smell a man before you invite him into your home.
As for my bird’s disappearance, perhaps there was no greater purpose. But I like to think that she’s like Elliot from Pete’s Dragon, and when our time together was up, she flew away to help another Angeleno in need. So, if you see a cockatiel perched in a tree, tell her thank you for me… and that I miss her. Who knows? Perhaps she’ll lead me straight to you.