Twenty-five years. That is a long time. And somehow Big figured I would find her there. After 25 years. And I did. Ends up Big never married. Neither did I.
She went to the University of Toronto for business, got a full scholarship to Stanford where she received her MBA, and the year she graduated she inherited her father’s fortune after he committed suicide. And it felt so terrible that I didn’t know Big’s real name because I had heard of Ronald Marsh’s death by suicide. He was CEO of the Royal Bank. And I never made the connection.
“What the heck is your real first name? I swear I never knew it.” I was staring right through Big’s eyes into the back of her head. Pamela was squeezing my hand so hard it hurt.
“Margot. Margot Marsh. Margot Ginny Marsh. Now Margot Bird. I changed my last name after my dad died. Everyone wanted something, money for investments, all kinds of crazies came out of the woodwork. I went into hiding for a while. And when I surfaced I decided to change my name. To yours my little bird. To yours. Margot Bird. For real.”
“You do realize that my last name is not Bird right? Just to be sure.”
“For now it isn’t," said Big. But if we want to live a new life. I mean a real new life. One without a history. One where we can do and be whoever we want, this might be the time to change your name,” said Big.
“Me too,” added Pamela. “I’m changing my last name too. Pamela, Jay and Margot Bird. The Birds. And the metaphors! Flown the coop. Leave the nest. Fly south. Early bird gets the worm. A bird in the hand is worth three in a bush. Birds of a feather. Bird’s eye view. I could go on if you like.”
Big smiled. “Look at this. I loved this so much I had it tattooed up my arm. A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”
“Do I now have two women to live out my life with? It kind of feels like it at this moment.”
“Yes,” said Big and Pamela in unison. Then laughter. Lots of laughter.
“Ends up my little bird that I have significantly more money than what you are carrying in that backpack. Significantly more. In fact I may have enough money to last many more lifetimes. So we are set. I have another surprise for you too. The manager of this hotel. You know her. She saw the beacon as well and showed up one day, left her husband and wanted to work here. I can guarantee she will not make it four Birds but she will be happy to see you. She knew you’d come eventually too. That is why she is here.”
“You don’t mean…”
“Yes. Her. Her works here. For me. Not today. But tomorrow 6 am sharp. She runs the place. And she doesn’t take shit from anyone. For she still is Her Royal Majesty after all. Now she simply reigns over Beef. My exit strategy. And now it appears it is my time to exit. Our time.”
“Now the matter of the money and the coat. We have a job to do. To set it up for the next guy. Let’s do that tomorrow. And you can see Her tomorrow.” Big was all smiles.
“Well well well JayBird, I was wondering when you’d get here. When we opened I thought, this place will be a beacon for him. He’ll find his way back. And I was right. Oh I was a few years off on when you’d show up, but I was right.” Big was beaming as she stepped off a milk crate and walked around the front counter to greet us. “You’re crying, my little bird. I have that way with people.”
In a flash so many memories ran through my mind like a strobe. Bang bang bang. How we could find each other in a big city or a crowd. How I could walk out of my apartment with the idea that I would see Big, with no way to communicate. And we would. In a coffee shop, a bar, a park, and once at a police station but that is another story for another time.
“I am crying Big. I am so happy to see you. Are you the rich artist that paid for this hotel? Or was that Charles Pachter?” We were hugging and her head rested just under my chin.
“Charles Pachter? Are you for real. That guy is a fraud. I am the artist. You’ll note I didn’t say what kind of artist funded this hotel on our website—just a Toronto artist. I am an artist of fashion.”
Big, Pamela and I went into our Pablo Escobar room, and Big had drinks sent up. Lots of drinks.
“OK, spill it. What is going on? People stay here when they have money and are on the run. Some just want the experience, sure. But many…trouble. That is your case. I can feel it.” Big sat on a broken kitchen chair, once owned by Pablo where he used to sit and stare out his window longingly, talk on the phone to his wife who was in protective custody (I love you Tata!) and plan assassinations and bombings.
We told Big the story over many drinks, probably too many drinks, and next thing I know I am waking up at midnight with a sea monster on one side and Pamela on the other, both snoring, fully clothed and lying on my arms.
The sea monster opened her eyes and stared at me, and said in a whisper, “and then there were three…” Moments later she was asleep again.