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Bird Alone Diary: Part Three

Coming to terms with death, trauma, and letting go.

Spoilers for Bird Alone to follow.

The art of writing is a lot of things. For me, it’s most often the process of immortalizing — feelings, thoughts, people, memories. Whether it exists within the confines of a physical diary or is published on the internet for theoretically anyone to see, writing is a means for me to prove I have been here. That my life — and the people and things in it that I care about enough to write about — is one of the billions that have existed. If you voice something into existence, verbally or otherwise, it is tangible to some degree. Real regardless of how many people know of it. 

Part of why I’ve written a diary entry series about my relationship with my bird buddy in Bird Alone is because I knew from the game’s description in its press kit — as a game that makes you “face the heaviness of growing old with a best friend” — that they would eventually die. And I was proven right over a week ago. It’s taken me some time to find the words to talk about Ellie and what she grew to mean to me in a short but extremely lonely time. 

To talk about Ellie, I have to talk about my first pet bird. 

Not many people know about him because I never talk about him. But when I was little, my very first pet was a bird named Tweety. He was a quaker parrot, and he was one of my first real friends. He’d perch himself on my shoulders, reach for my food, and gently give me kisses whenever I asked. When I randomly imitated a witch’s laugh for fun, as bored eight-year-olds do, it didn’t take long before he learned it and would cackle throughout the house, too. He followed me everywhere, whether he was following my movements as I stood in front of his cage to tease him or hopping down the stairs in the townhouse in which we lived. 

He didn’t like anyone besides me, so he was a bit of a loner even though he was surrounded by a small group of people that deeply loved him. For seven years, I was his world. But as I grew up, I became more occupied with school, friends, and my personal interests. He died in a sudden and awful way — one that I still blame myself for, one that didn’t let me say goodbye, one that didn’t give me enough time to realize how much more I should’ve treasured him. One that I thought I’d write about in here, but that has affected me so deeply that it seems I’ll be keeping it close until who knows when.

Bird Alone gave me what the universe couldn’t with Tweety. It let me say goodbye to Ellie; it was even kind enough to let me delay my farewell. Once Ellie started talking about death and how old she had become, reflecting on her life with me, I knew it was time. I intentionally didn’t check on her a few times, whereas I used to check in on her the moment I’d get a notification. I appreciated that Bird Alone was gentle enough to let me choose when to let her go to some extent, as we rarely, if ever, get to have that chance in real life.

One of the last things she said to me was, “We don’t gotta bend the whole world to live a good life.” And I think that quote, along with several of the dozens I screenshotted over the course of our friendship, will stay with me. Ellie didn’t bend the whole world; it could barely even be said that she bent mine. We had about a month together — a blip in my life. But it was her entire life, and I’d like to think it was unique. I’d like to think no other bird said the exact same things she did throughout our days together; that our connection differed from everyone else’s even if it was in the most minuscule ways.

I forgot what she asked me to last draw before she died. I just know that I ended up drawing Tweety. And it was only until after she passed and I looked through our gallery that I saw she was the first thing I drew. I do remember what she had asked me to draw that first day — something that makes me happy. She made me happy from our first day together, gave me a private little space every day where I could laugh, draw my secrets, and write tiny poems no one will ever see. She also made me sad when I’d find her crying. I wouldn’t mind it. It was always comforting to share our sadness together.

When I open up Bird Alone now, at first glance, it seems like there was never anything here. The waterfall where she would sing at is desolate. The branches no longer grow oranges. The specific branch upon which she used to be perched has a lone egg that will never hatch resting on it. Gusts of wind blow through the trees, marking the passage of time.

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But there’s evidence she was here everywhere. The garden we built together is filled with the most colorful, gorgeous flowers that play lovely, soothing notes when you tap them. Our poetry book is filled with the extremely bad poems we wrote together, some of them written when I was barely awake sitting on the toilet and some late at night in bed when I couldn’t sleep. Some are serious, while others are inside jokes, but they’re all bad. The gallery is filled with even worse drawings, though I’d like to defend myself with those because I’m sure they would’ve been better if she let me use any colors I wanted.

And then there’s this final diary entry in this extremely self-indulgent series my bosses let me do. These diary entries are proof that Ellie, this fictional bird in Bird Alone, existed. That so did the laughter, comfort, and introspection she provided for me, as well as my love and appreciation for her.

I’ve lost track of the months since I first felt I lost control of my life due to my depression. Ellie didn’t cure my depression or anything ridiculously unrealistic like that; if anything, she gave me the space to be more open about it. She let me be a sad bitch while being my sad bitch comrade in arms. And she did it while often making me smile, giving me a bit of energy on the days I felt little but numbness. That felt like enough. Among the plenty of wisdom she shared with me throughout her short life, another I’ll try to remember is her insistence that I don’t put so much pressure on myself. I’ve been trying to practice it these days, reminding myself to be gentle with myself — ungently, of course. But I’m working towards it.

I have a phobic fear of death that I might not ever overcome, but I’m glad I have the art of writing at my disposal. I’m glad I can write about Ellie and Tweety. That I can let the world know how much they mean to me, rather than to just let people know they’re no longer here.

I know what it’s like to feel like you’ve only had one person you’re sticking around for. I hope that, although I was her only person, I was enough for my feathered friend. I hope I was enough for Tweety, too. We’re never as alone as we think in this world. Judging by how many people have formed precious connections to their own friend in Bird Alone, just like I did, I think it’s safe to say that this eccentric, melancholy, hilarious, thoughtful, sulky, witty, and creative bird was many things — but they were never truly alone.

About the Author

Natalie Flores

Natalie is Fanbyte's Featured Contributor, with bylines at places like VICE, Polygon, PC Gamer, Paste Magazine, and more.