“But she promised she’d say good-bye,” Max said as he swigged a glass of lager while we sat in our usual back booth at “Let’s Get It On” bar, the last place anybody would ever think to “get it on” unless that meant to get shit-faced drunk before noon on a weekday. That’s what Max and I were trying to do on that Wednesday at 11 am, but we were distracted with thoughts of love and death. “Yeah,” Max continued, ”I should have known I was going to get screwed to the wall the second I saw her. All that eyeliner, for Christ sake, and that green and yellow stripped jumpsuit she loved to wear. What self-respecting woman goes around looking like that, for the love of God?”
Max was a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic who went to 7 o’clock Mass every morning at Blessed Sacrament Catholic over on Sunset, then after a brief snooze, managed to be at the bar by 9 when it opened. I, on the other hand, was a fallen Jew who had traded Shabbat with my extended family on Friday nights for worship daily at the bar with Max. I had become almost a Christian under Max’s influence since he liked to call our ritual of meeting “the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine for the love of Christ.” The only difference was there was never any bread, it was beer instead of wine and I didn’t believe in Jesus. But besides that…
Max finished his glass and raised it for the waitress to bring another. “Yeah, and who calls themselves a professional clown and then wears their clown suit all the time – day and night – and never seems to go to the circus or carnival or wherever the hell clowns are supposed to perform? Is that insane or what?”
“Crazy as hell,” I said, then raised my glass in memory of Sadie. Yea, Sadie was her name and she may have had her faults, but that woman had hooked us both into pure love for her. It probably was that jumpsuit. God almighty, every curve, mound – if you know what I mean – practically every mole was visible since it was skin-tight, and, I can hardly keep from salivating – yes, I know that’s gross, me saying that, but it’s the truth – even thinking about how round her breasts were and how her pant leg would slip up every once in a while and you could see this smooth-as-silk-skin that would make any man – or lesbo, I suppose – melt with longing. Oh, god, that skin – all of her skin – milky white and smooth like some piece of ice sculpture except it wasn’t cold – hell no. And yes, I did know…and not just from copping a feel. That girl could writhe with heat as if she had a volcano living inside her. Holy shit. God. Yes. What I would give to see her walking in that door about now.
“So, what time’s the funeral?” Max asked and glanced up at the neon Schlitz clock.
“Noon,” I said, and tried to forget that there’d never be any more of that heat for me from our girl Sadie.
“Why is her service at that lame-ass Episcopal church, for God’s sake?” Max asked. “Those people are just wanna-be Catholics.”
“She told me she liked that church. People were nice to her there, even fed her breakfast a couple of Saturdays a month when she didn’t have any more money for food. A good home-cooked meal. You can’t fault a church for that.”
“I can fault any church that’s not Catholic,” Max said. “That’s the one true church.”
I reached in my pocket and held up a green and yellow striped tie. “I thought I might wear this for her. I think she would laugh.”
“Yeah, our Sadie always had a good sense of humor. By the way, where’d they say they found her?”
“Hanging from a tree limb in West Hollywood Park.”
“Aw…that’s sad,” he said, gulping the last of his beer before standing up, “But I have to admit, if I were going to do it, I would probably pick one of those big trees there, too. You ready?”
I stood up, too. It was odd seeing us dressed up like respectable guys heading off to church. It was a good feeling to see that we both cleaned up pretty well despite our bad habits. “Yeah, let’s head out.”
Henry, the bartender waved as we left. “Light a candle for me,” he called. “She was a good woman.”
We squinted as we stepped out in the bright sunlight, then stumbled up the street. All at once Max stopped and pointed at a bird perched on the back of a bus stop bench. It was big – at least a foot and a half tall – with a hooked nose, yellow head and green body. As soon as it spied us, it leaned its head to one side and squawked. “I’ll be damned,” Max said. “I can’t believe I’m seeing a yellow-headed amazon right now.”
“Isn’t it just one more parrot?”
“You’re missing the point. There are lots of wild parrots around here, but Sadie swore there were some of these amazons around, too. I told her that she was full of shit. They’re an endangered species that only show up in Central America and Mexico.”
We stared at the bird, which stared right back at us before spreading its wings and flying away. “You know what that was, don’t you?” Max said.
“A lost parrot?”
“Hell, no. That was Sadie making good on her promise to say good-bye.”
I stood silent for a second, not quite sure what to say.
“She’s letting us know she’s doing okay. That’s what that was. She knew we’d feel bad and she’s saying, “Relax, boys, I may spend some time in purgatory, but it won’t be long.”
“I thought Catholics believe all people who commit suicide are doomed to hell.”
“Nay,” Max said, as he started walking in the direction of the church. “That’s just for dumbasses who don’t understand God’s love.”
“But I’m pretty sure — ”
Max gave me one of his shut-the-fuck-up looks, and I stopped before I ruined the moment. Besides I liked the idea that Sadie was going to heaven and I might get to see her again at some point in the future. I mean if heaven existed, after all.
There were four of us at the service besides the priest and two altar boys. The other two people were an older man and woman who bore a remarkable likeness to Sadie. Her mother and father, I was sure.
The woman came up to us afterwards and said, “It’s good to see our daughter had at least two friends.”
Max and I said in perfect unison, “She had lots of friends.”
Her father dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief. “I’m glad she had some upstanding people in her life. I feel better knowing that.”
Max and I exchanged a glance before shaking their hands. A few minutes later, we stood at the corner and waved as they drove away in a black Prius. Crazy Sadie’s parents were Prius owners. Who could have ever predicted that?
“Come on, man,” Max called as he started to cross the street.
I shook my head. “Go on back without me. I think I’ll just walk for a while.”
“Suit yourself,” he yelled, “but it’s going to be a lame-ass going-away party for our Sadie.” He headed back down the hill.
As for me, I walked all the way to West Hollywood Park. I wanted to see the exact tree where Sadie had met her end. I also wanted to enjoy looking like a respectable human being for just a little while longer. It felt strangely good. When I arrived, I looked at the trees to see which one must have been the one. That’s when I spied the yellow-headed amazon sitting up in the branches. “Holy shit,” I said to no one in particular, then sat down on a nearby bench and just stared at that bird for a good twenty minutes. I don’t quite know why, but at the end of that stare down, I understood a couple of basic truths. First, Sadie was okay, wherever she was, and it was definitely not hell, no way. Jews don’t believe in hell, anyway, but even if we did, Sadie was not there. Second, sitting near where Sadie had spent her last moments was the right place for me to be. I felt comfort here and that bird looked peaceful, too.
I took my tie off, walked over to the tree, and draped it over the lowest branch. The yellow and green stripes matched that bird’s feathers to a T. Just as I sat back down, the parrot let out a series of loud squawks that sounded a lot like laughter. I couldn’t help but laugh, too. I gave the bird a nod of appreciation, then sat back down on the bench. The truth was I was happy here. Maybe happier than I’d been in a very long time.