S. and I found the pigeon a few doors down from her apartment. It was huddled outside the Portuguese seafood restaurant at the corner of Rachel and Clark. This was in Montréal. The pigeon was covered in blood. There was a gash in its side, under its left wing, that looked like the work of a dog, or of an especially sadistic cat.
It was early spring. S. and I had survived the winter but just barely. A few months prior I had confessed to a certain act of infidelity. I came clean about it at the hippie sandwich place at Saint-Urbain and Duluth where everybody took their parents when they visited. Neither of us was hungry so I ordered an expensive cranberry juice that came in a big Styrofoam cup. The straw was ringed with pineapple, like a kebab. Tears filled S.’s eyes when I told her what I had done. She got up and walked out and I followed her. She ran all the way up the mountain in the snow and I still followed her. I had taken the cup of expensive cranberry juice with me. I did not pass any garbage cans so I held onto the cup as I ran. Eventually I threw the cup to the ground and the juice spilled red against the snow.
S. and I stayed together but something between us was still broken. Now, outside the Portuguese restaurant, we stood and looked at the pigeon and wondered what to do.
I have always been fond of birds. I had a pet cockatiel when I was a child. S. was expressive and sensitive and moved by the plight of animals. We were both vegetarians. We decided to save the pigeon.
We caught it in a dishtowel and brought it inside. We put it in a cardboard box lined with newspaper and rags. The pigeon trembled but otherwise did not move very much. We swabbed its wound with rubbing alcohol and it cried in pain.
I went to a pet store to get baby bird food. I lied to the woman at the store and said I was hand-raising a pet bird. She asked what kind and I said a dove. The pigeon did not eat the food.
I am bad at relationships and was even worse then, young and selfish and deeply stupid. I am quick to lose interest but averse to confrontation. Around this time I shaved my head, grew a huge, unruly beard, made myself as ugly as I could. I took food from dumpsters and shoplifted from the grocery store. I became very good at Nintendo Wii golf. S. was difficult but full of love, alive with love. I did not know what to do with it all.
The day after we found the pigeon I sat on the edge of S.’s bed and cried. The walls of her room were pink and her bookshelves were made of bricks and planks. The metaphor was too obvious, I said. The wounded bird. We tried to save it but it was dying anyway.
If this were fiction nobody would buy it. S. put her hand on my back and told me not to put so much weight on the bird. It had enough
to deal with. It could not bear the responsibility. Right now it just had to stay alive.
The pigeon died. It was a gray morning. We buried it on the mountain with a little ceremony, like you would when you were a child and you had a funeral for your gerbil in the backyard.
A couple of months later I found another injured pigeon. I took it to the animal shelter instead of trying to fix it myself. I carried it in a box on the metro ride out to Namur and listened to it flapping and cooing inside. They had a pigeon lady, the guy at the animal shelter said. The pigeon lady would know what to do.