I think of you often, Mr. Switzerland. How you spoke perfect English and were not deterred by my accent. The sadness in your voice when you said you bred cockatoos but only the white ones. Your claim that I had helped you find a taxi at that late hour, in the middle of the city, the country I’d never been to before when the truth is you most likely were an old hand at heralding taxis at midnight.
To my regret I immediately forgot your name, being swept away by visions of pristine streets and tourist worthy chocolates and postcards of snow glazed mountains.
Do you sometimes think of me, Mr. Switzerland, and wonder if I still steal ball point pens from foreign hotel clerks. Alas, there have been no more foreign hotel clerks since that night, Mr. Switzerland.
No one had ever called me mademoiselle before you, Mr. Switzerland, or since. Here at home I am the simple Ms or Hey You in everyday flat English, just another older woman at loose ends left untied. Here I travel across town with friends who never take taxis.
Oh, Mr. Switzerland, how I long to hear your soft voice again in the darkness
of the taxi, how I long to see you grin again past my table at breakfast, in that stream of ornithologists and learned professionals moving to the day’s first seminar.
We could spend the day at Loros Parque, expounding on each species’ special qualities, could peer into the meshed enclosures looking for green feathers amid all that green foliage, listen to the parrots snicker at our clumsiness.
We could spend lunch discussing theories and plans and experiments and the latest research on how to stave off the coming extinction of too many parrots with green feathers, while drinking good beer to ward off the heat of mid-day.
And at nightfall we would dine on the balcony of the hotel, the city spread out before us like a blanket of gifts for our choosing, each one a sparkling light. We would have the red wine with the pasta, dirty our fingertips with buttered bread as we laughed at some joke older than time but funnier now shared.
Oh, Mr. Switzerland, you and I are home now, separately, peacefully, halfway around the world from one another. Me with my cache of dark stolen pens, you with your sad voice explaining only the white ones, and the yellow taxis waiting at the curb, small traces of exhaust disappearing into the air.
Marguerite Floyd is a Kentucky native. She holds an MFA from Vermont College and is the author of four books: Everyone’s Daughter, The Parrot Reckonings, The African Brown-Headed Parrot, and Cockatiel Lessons. When not obeying the commands of her three small parrots, she writes, edits, and teaches.