Outside of Harvey’s on the Queensway, a favourite resort-like destination for us when we have access to a car, the Beast turned to me and said, “Doesn’t this feel like the kind of slightly rundown place where a business man would come into after a long day at work to order a burger? And in the movie version, he’d be at the wrong place at the wrong time and there’d be some kind of armed robbery?”
“Oh my god I was thinking the same thing when we were eating! But in my mind, it was me who was at the wrong place at the wrong time and I died while eating a cheeseburger and French fries. I was literally thinking that.”
“Well, that’s a bit weird.”
“And I was thinking what an ironic and embarrassing death it would be. I mean, here I am trying to lose 15 lb. and then I die while eating a cheeseburger in a sad-looking Harvey’s. Then I thought, what a perfect Maclean’s story that would be–you know, the obituary page at the very end of the magazine that details an ironic death? And I was all like, ‘God, I hope my friends there would pitch it and it would make it into the magazine.’ That would be nice.”
The Beast finished his cigarette and had a slight look of concern on his face. I continued: “I always think about my Maclean’s obituary when I ride my bike beneath underpasses that are filled with pigeons. I imagine a pigeon getting caught in my spokes and I’m so disgusted that I get hit by a car and die.”
“Why would that be ironic?”
“Uh, because I hate pigeons,” I said. “I fear them.”
“What about Pidge?”
About three weeks ago my good friend Erinn rescued a baby pigeon she found on the street. Here’s how I how I found out: One night I went over for a little visit. Erinn appeared at the top of the stairs to her apartment as I was walking up. Knowing about my bird phobia, she gently explained that the pigeon was up high on a book shelve in a cat carrier. I might hear it, but I wouldn’t even see it. Plus, she said, Paul Newman loved pigeons. That must be worth something.
I proceeded, and with great trepidation I sat on the couch with the glass of Champagne that Erinn had poured me, and watched. By my side was her cat. We stared up at the cat carrier while she told us about how much the bird had grown, what she’d been feeding it and how she planned on teaching it to fly so that she could release it back into the wild. She also told me that she’d named the pigeon, who she suspected was female (after much Internet research on how to determine a pigeon’s gender.) She named her Pidge.
A few weeks later, Erinn told me that not only was Pidge flying but that the cat was practically best friends with the bird. Erinn would take Pidge outside and away she’d fly. When she snapped her fingers, Pidge would land on her fist. Even though I was still disgusted by the thought of a bird anywhere near me, I was amazed.
Equally amazing has been remembering the feeling of not being painfully full after dinner. In my attempt to lose 15 lb. alongside my friend from work, I’ve only had one serving of dinner for the last two weeks. At first, it was an odd sensation to not go back for seconds, even thirds: Was I satisfied? Still hungry? I couldn’t tell because I’ve come to associate the feeling of satisfaction with an aching stomach. But as the days moved on it wasn’t so bad. The Beast has been really supportive, too. In fact, he says that when my friend and I publish our imaginary and entirely unscientific weight-loss book, we should call it The Power of Two. That’s because I’ve been tracking our calories and making us healthy work-day lunches, like fennel and pomegranate salads and this Mediterranean eggplant and chickpea stew that I served with quinoa.
Meanwhile, she’s been texting and emailing me to make sure I do my daily seven-minute workout, and sending me home with vats of homemade soups and stews for dinner, like this one:
She calls it “beef and tomato stew.” But it’s so much more than that: the flank steak is marinated in a little soy sauce and then sliced super thin. There’s king mushrooms and baby bok choy in there, too. It’s the kind of meal I could eat every day for the rest of my life–and I might once she teaches me how to make it.
So how does Harvey’s factor in to losing 15 lb.? Well, it had been a long day. I’d only had oatmeal (160 calories) and a small clementine (35) for breakfast, and a tuna and bean salad for lunch (300). That left me with a whopping 1,000 calories to use up for dinner. Now normally I’d immediately reserve 200 plus calories for two glasses of wine. But I wasn’t drinking because I was driving. I could use it all on actual food. The Beast mentioned Harvey’s so I looked up what a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and mustard would cost me (450 calories), plus an order of fries (430). If my calculations are correct, that’s only 880 calories, not to mention enough sodium to turn me into a superbly delicious Harvey’s pickle.
And that’s how we ended up at Harvey’s. Right before the Beast and I went to Harvey’s, we made a pit stop at Erinn’s going away party. She’s leaving Toronto for a while to go back home to Nova Scotia and eventually she’s going on to a writing retreat in Vermont and then to another in Italy. Her parents drove down to pick up all her stuff, which she’s whittled down to next to nothing over the last month. Erinn had planned on letting Pidge free in a park. But I think as the time approached to say so long, it wasn’t easy to let go.
Her parents tried to release Pidge from her deck. But Pidge just kept coming back to Erinn, clinging on to her for dear life. Finally, they took Pidge to Trinity Bellwoods park and released her.
Erinn had to stay at home for that part. She couldn’t do it. “I know everyone thinks I’m crazy,” she texted me, “but I loved that bird. She was so sweet and innocent.”
Her eyes were swollen at her party. She was heartbroken because of Pidge, and more, I suspect.
I hugged Erinn three or four times while trying to avoid eye contact. I knew that if I looked into her eyes I would cry, not only because there won’t be any more dinners or white wines or coffees or grocery shopping trips–those effortless sort of moments that you take for granted–but also because I knew how much she was hurting.
As we drove to Harvey’s, I thought about the coincidence of Erinn having both saved and let go of Pidge right before she leaves the city she’s called home for many years–and before she leaves behind so many friends. Maybe Pidge was a metaphor, for hanging on and letting go; for having to say difficult good-byes.
But what do I know. I hate birds.