Mom, you already know this story, so this one is just for the +3s out there.
Talking about your chronic illness can be a challenging, emotionally-taxing experience. Talking about your chronic illness while a horny pigeon tries to get it on with every other pigeon in the park (before turning its attention on a sleeping duck) is, well…something that happened to me.
So, I’d just left the doctor’s office full of impossibly scratchy chairs where I’d learned that my Crohn’s had made a comeback, and I’m stumbling down the street. It’s a cloudy day, but my sunglasses are on. I’m silently crying as I circle the hard truth that my life is about to become very different from what I want it to be.
It’s all very dramatic.
I think about getting on a bus and just going somewhere. Somewhere I’ve never been. Possibly somewhere with cake.
Instead, I call my mom.
She insists on leaving work and coming to meet me. She’s a good mom. She will also take any excuse to leave work.
Anyway, we decide on a park that’s half way between the two of us. We find each other. Hugs are exchanged. My silent crying intensifies into ugly sobbing (the kind that turns your whole face into snot). Then, we find a bench.
I pull out the collection of colourful papers now crumpled at the bottom of my bag. “These are my options.” I push the papers into her hands. She reads them quietly, carefully. She has Lupus, so she knows what it means to be on a forever medicine. She holds my hand, squeezing my fingers slightly. She offers me a Kleenex out of a sleeve puffed full of clean Kleenexes for moments just like this one. She’s a good mom.
She opens her mouth. She’s about to say something profound and important. I can feel it. I blow my nose in anticipation — a loud honk announcing the pinnacle of our Mother-Daughter bonding moment.
A man juggling a coffee and a phone pushes his way into the literal crack between my leg and the edge of the bench. I shuffle over to avoid what could quite possibly have become an unwanted lap dance. His leg still touches my leg when he sits down. My face is 90% snot, 10% tears. And he is totally and completely unaware of my emotional crisis.
I cough quietly. The universal signal meaning: ‘what the actual fuck.’ He remains oblivious.
And, well, I’m not going to keep talking about the intimate details of my inflamed bowels while a stranger’s leg is touching mine, so my mom and I gather the colourful papers and relocate to a bench several meters away (one of the many free benches, might I add!).
This was a terrible, terrible mistake. For next to that bench was Randy, the world’s horniest pigeon.
Still blissfully unaware of Randy’s existence, my mom and I settle onto our new bench, and I resume my transformation into a human ball of snot, and my mom starts to say that profound motherly thing that will get me through this when a hefty pigeon with ruffled up feathers and a determined look in his eye darts in front of us. He’s chasing a small pigeon that’s so uninterested in Randy that she/he abandons her/his prime spot by the fountain and flies through heavy traffic to the other side of the street.
But, Randy is determined. Randy has ruffled his feathers and he’s not going anywhere without a date.
My inflamed bowels/ugly crying take a backseat as my mom and I watch Randy chase another pigeon. And another. And another. And, instead of that incredibly profound something that I was waiting for, my mom tells me: “You know, I saw this documentary about pigeons. Apparently they can’t tell the sex of other pigeons. So…he’s just going for it.”
That’s the thing that I remember her saying that day. That’s it.
Eventually, all the pigeons flee the fountain and Randy the hefty pigeon is left alone to contemplate his choices.
Fly across the street to the flock of pigeons who literally flew through traffic to avoid him. Fly to another more promising fountain. Or…
Nearby, a lone duck is asleep, its brown head curled beneath one wing in blissful ignorance of Randy.
“Oh god,” I say, completely forgetting that I’m holding colourful sheets of paper with ‘Lymphoma’ and ‘Lupus-like symptoms’ stamped on them. “He’s going to go for the duck.”
“No…” My mom doesn’t sound entirely convinced with the word she’s chosen as Randy takes a few cautious steps toward the duck.
But then. The duck stirs. It looks up at Randy with a face that I can only assume means “Don’t even fucking think about it” in fowl, and Randy (wisely) takes that opinion into account and flies across the street.
We are all saved. Me, my mom, the duck, Randy, the world at large. Maybe not the other pigeons across the street.
Perhaps I should take a lesson from Randy. Maybe there’s a message in his relentless search for the unattainable. His supreme focus on one goal. Or perhaps in his story there’s a lesson about life itself: that, in the midst of your emotional crisis, men will drink coffee and pigeons will contemplate mating with ducks and the world will keep turning. And maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe it’s exactly what I needed to see on that day. That the world keeps running and I can run with it.
Or maybe Randy was just a horny pigeon.