November 28, 2012

it's like whack-a-mole: get one thing sorted and three more appear, and clear those three to find another five, and you wonder if this ends (briefly, though, until something else arises.)


October 11, 2012

Break the enormity of a thing down and down again, until it becomes nothing more than a series of lists to be checked off, and the act of leaving a place that is, quite literally, in your bonesgoes from mountain to molehill. Proceed with enough purpose to get through the whole thing but not too much; more certain than any calcified anything has been the frankly inconvenient tendency of adrenal tsunami to lay waste to any sort of forward motion2.

Maybe it's brought forth by some tectonically unknowable impulse—lizard-brain hangovers in some Verneian psychic centre of the world, hammering deep roots and rendering an already-shaky place wholly uninhabitable.

Maybe you're garden-variety crazy, and these fanciful explanations are just a way to avoid dealing with the reality of being up against yourself, that way.

Either way: breathe. Feel the first edges of winter in the air, search for the first taste of the inescapable rain you find yourself missing during summer days, wonder if the wind will bring you a little of the ocean.

Add these things to the list of things you'll miss, and wonder if you'll feel them again before you leave, and wonder what the air smells like in the place that you're moving to, and what it'll smell like in all the places you'll go before returning3.

1. left arm broken, age 6; jaws realigned, age 24; lifetime of backyard vegetables.
2. replaced, instead, with the twin urges to be alone or to be immersed in a sea of people.
3. it's not a certain thing, you keep saying, that you'll ever return, but there's probably enough iron in the surgical steel in your jaws to work like a compass and drag you home, face-first.


October 03, 2012

that time i met his parents

I guess it's time, finally, for this story: I was supposed to go to Shambhala, and then we were going camping, and then I'd meet his parents. I bailed on this plan, partially because a long weekend spent surrounded by people high on things and listening to electronic music didn't seem super appealing, but also because there was a blackout on vacations at work, and while I probably could have pushed my luck and gotten away (management: surprisingly supportive of my long distance relationship, oddly,) I was gunning for a promotion at the time, and decided to hold off for a bit. I wrangled a few days off in a row a couple weeks later, and booked a pair of overnight greyhound tickets to/from Kelowna, leaving after a closing shift on Wednesday and arriving home in time for a Sunday morning start.
Figuring it was only polite to bring a host gift and remembering that his mom liked single malt, I went to the liquor store, and found myself attempting to commune with a wall of bottles to find out which best said 'hello! I'm nailing your son, who you thought was straight,' but was also delicious. A flurry of tweets (perhaps you are sensing a theme) and a recommendation later, I picked up a bottle of Balvenie Doublewood, which was both delicious and thematically appropriate (aged in two kinds of oak barrel for 12 years; bourbon and sherry, if I remember right. The other choice was Knob Creek Single Barrel, but that seemed a bit obvious.)

Armed with the above and also a batch of world peace cookies, I left after work (and a beer and chat with Kristen, Keith & Bryan,) on a Greyhound through a bunch of wilderness I'd passed over but not through and some towns I'd only heard of in a job I'm still trying to forget. I arrived a little ahead of schedule, thankfully unstabbed (but sore-necked from sleeping upright and, let's be frank, a little sweaty,) at which point I called to be all "hey I'm a bit early but am going to strike out in search of coffee," only to find that he'd slept in and was still in bed.

Over waffles, after meeting up, contrition and kisses across the front seat of his parents' car, I asked what his parents knew about me; I'd been on his case to at least inform them that they'd have another visitor for a few days (if not to actually come out to them; knowing how my own coming outh was going to go put me in no position to push him into it,) and he hadn't said anything at all, but apparently this wasn't an issue. I shrugged and returned to eating a waffle the honest-to-gods size of my face; unsure of how the next few hours, let alone days, would play out, I thought it was only sensible to enjoy breakfast.

I started this some months before returning to it, and in the middle realized that all this weird dredging up of personal historical unpleasantness isn't super constructive, and while the easiest thing to do would be to abandon a thing, I'm compelled, to some extent, to close this out in a manner that seems complete, for most purposes; really, for my purposes, which are the only ones that matter, here?



I met his parents, after breakfast, introduced as a friend who was staying here for a couple days who he'd met at a conference; none of which was problematic aside from the space issues, as he had family who was visiting from Edmonton and a family friend who was arriving in a couple days, but it was lovely to meet me and the cookies looked good.

What followed, from there, were a couple days of sun-drenched idyll, being led by the hand on a whirlwind tour of places worth noting (and others worth mocking,) formative people and a large-though-unsurprising number of clandestine makeouts. We shared a bed, and showered together, and spent long nights out and longer mornings in, all the while avoiding the discussion I thought he was going to have before I got there.

Other things happening: insightful advice from his mom that made it pretty clear she knew what was up (that I'd shown up with serious whiskey was also a sign; apparently none of his friends had done anything of the sort, before,) an outing to the beach with a stopoff for some frankly amazing goats milk gelato, me laying waste to the dude and his mom at Scrabble.

The last day, as I was packing up, we had some hilariously couple-y conversation, and heard his mother coming up the stairs (probably having heard enough to make things pretty obvious,) and he shot me a look to which I responded with raised brows and a shrug, remembering that I'd been wanting him to have this talk well before I'd arrived, since a "hey meet my boyfriend, parents," trip was what I'd signed up for and a "hello parents I'm going to behave oddly and avoid questions about this guy who's just a friend" trip was what I'd ended up having, to this point.

Downstairs, over single-malt, we cleared the air; I apologized for the subterfuge but was waved away, we found out about how his sister's coming out had been substantially more sanctimonious, she asked about kids and we, somewhat dazedly, explained about how that was on the list of things to be dealt with when we lived in the same city, and those plans were laid out, and things seemed largely okay.

We went to a party, briefly, and after downing a larger beer than was perhaps sensible, we returned to grab the bag before heading to the greyhound depot (another overnight bus; I'm not sure how I thought this was a good idea;) and one almost-tearful "see you in Montreal in six weeks" conversation later, headed home to Vancouver, to kill three hours before another shift at work; time I'd fill with Naam breakfast, a walk across the Burrard bridge, and listening to Left and Leaving and trying not to be visibly upset in public.


July 06, 2012

schroedinger's mixtape

I woke up, some nights, (while we were still together and/or more than I care to admit to,) remembering one particular night spent curled up in some bed, ours on a strictly temporary basis: tangled a little more complexly than spoons,  I had one hand on his chest and associated arm pulling him close, feeling the gentle and ongoing staccato thump of his heart as I drifted off. Feeling like some endlessly lucky bastard, I'd surveyed the gentle curves of his sleeping shoulders, satisfied (at that point, temporally,) that this was in fact the reality I'd become accustomed to, then let his heartbeat lull me back to sleep, until I woke, breathing him in, a little unsure of what side of dream I was on, again.

It was an enormously unlikely thing, at the outset, and so for the first little while I had to be reminded to holster my bafflement: that an unnecessary conference trip, a low-drag postmodern epistolary courtship conducted 140 characters at a time, and the fascinating interlock of our personalities and fields of nerdery would lead to all manner of gently romantic nonsense—like the above—seemed beyond mere numbers, as if some whole new field of physics needed to be created to adequately describe the surreal and increasing unlikelihood of our boyfriend-dom and its continuance.  I'd learn eventually that there was a look I'd adopt when struck by the above, wide-eyed with wonder and a little pained with uncertainty; and that it ended up serving as his cue to reinforce what normalcy the situation merited or occasionally create some sort of distraction (the nature of which is best left alone, here) to retrieve me from whatever headspace I'd entered while conflating understanding the rarity of a thing with the act of simply enjoying it.
When things came to a close, it felt a bit like the compound improbability of our continued entanglement caught up with us; in some effort to smooth over whatever space-time disturbance we'd wrought, we found ourselves moving through mirror-world reenactments of our first days together: Toronto swapped for Vancouver, weariness for joy, what I'd thought to be the alteration of our orbits that brought us together revealed as nothing more than a blissful tangent; even our first and last kisses saw one of us standing watching the other walk to a train, riding a metal-and-glass tube on to the rest of our lives. Having recognized the end before being able to admit it to myself, I spent the trip from his door to mine balancing standard travel anxiety (coloured person problems!) against heartache foreshocks, jolted anew by multivariate and inescapable reminders of the man I'd spent a week visiting, who'd just left me feeling underfoot and then resented. It took a train, a bus, a plane, and an automobile to get me home, unhappiness rumbling all the while and mounting through weeks of uncertainty and radio silence. Discontent simmered while the rest of my life demanded attention and continued to do so until, finally, I received an email in reply to my thousand-word airing of woes, seven days after I'd called to make sure it was a reasonable thing, five after I'd sent it off and three after I'd decided we were over regardless of what the email contained—his silences had said more already than his words possibly could, and as much as I hoped it was otherwise, it was time to let go.

I hadn't really thought about it, and if pressed, I would've assumed some relatively graceful denouement: the slow fade of rose-tinted glasses to hindsight's clarity, lessons learned, reinforcement of self in the way of re-knitted bones, but, you know, with hearts. I was wrong about this, with only naivete to blame/credit for the enormity of my misunderstanding; what I'd thought—if I'd done this before, maybe—would be a smooth falling action turned out to be some dense and awful jumble of sine waves: jagged peaks, all-too-brief crests, and implacable valleys. I came to understand (like any complex wave) this one was composed of several others; if psychic Fourier transforms existed, I'd have seen the threads that threatened my own unraveling: the inversion of my original bafflement, some sense of betrayal, pretty straightforward anger (at him, but also at myself,) some level of regret at the things I didn't say, the replay of my shining and awful moment of comprehension (that night on his couch, watching him sleep in the next room, knowing and refusing to know where things went from there,) encroaching loneliness, and the whole assortment of things pop culture told me I was supposed to feel, according to who took the initiative (arguable, really—he checked out, but I had to start all the unpleasant conversations, or so my ego likes to think.)

I read, a lot, as a coping mechanism; devouring novels I'd enjoyed before and had worn in, mentally (in the way of an object that knows your shape, like Homer's apocryphal butt grooves) meant that I wasn't plumbing half-remembered conversation and archival ex-boyfriend texts in futile searches, nor did it allow me to imagine complex and unlikely scenarios involving reunion, absolution, roles reversed; some action of mine leading to his spiral of despair. Fully recognizing the futility of imagining all the things that could have gone right, if only some unknowable condition had been satisfied, I did it anyway, then shook my head (as if such thoughts could be dislodged,) and reached for another book.

Reading involved headphones (obviously) and with them, the readiness to skip a track should opening bars necessitate it; both lyrical content and temporal association seemed poised to reopen volumes of thought best left shut, though not without a note to return (being wholly, sadly aware of what happens when I leave this sort of thing to simmer/fester, depending.) A playlist built itself, slowly; equal parts soundtrack, barely-disguised things I wanted to say, and unrefined heartbreak, skewed slightly towards songs indicating both sadness and acceptance, with a marginal amount of hope for the future. It made sense, given aforementioned mirror-world reenactments, to put it out in the world in the same place I'd put all the other mixes, though this one was more for me than him—at this point, we were past words and I wasn't sure if I wanted to exchange more, given all the good the others had done. I leant on tracks missing things (lyrics from a Do Make Say Think track, a rhythm section in a Twilight Sad cover, any sort of pretence from The Wrens,) and waffled a bunch, careful of the semiotic minefield that was track selection and wanting to project (but not too much) a place of tentatively being okay with things being over (slash intermittently displeased) and not some sort of weird state of elemental wanting for things that had exited the realm of possibility, no matter how many quantum systems were collapsed (a thing I liked to think of having left behind in the air over the prairies.)

It went up, life went on, and I found myself explaining it at a party; being rendered crestfallen by a passing compliment merited fairly substantial exposition, where friends go, and in talking about the causality of a mix tape, the thoughts that had been bouncing around my head came spilling out, in the way of things that weren't really considered until they were said (and having been said, could only stay that way.) Yes, I thought he'd been awful to his loved ones (like that time I met his parents,) the only time we'd ever had an argument was when I needed him to be more patient and less impulsive (while I shot a wedding and he wanted to make out,) and certainly the things I'd been concerned about and had noted mentally to discuss when we lived in the same city (our shorthand for serious business,) were in fact the same things that brought about the end. Having done a year of long distance at that point, I wasn't enthused about another (at a minimum, given our school/life frameworks,) and while his previously proposed idea to live together for a summer seemed idyllic, it was more full of perils than I was ready to face.

That's not to say it was all bad; like any human endeavour, it bore peaks and troughs, and I loved him in the manner of first boyfriends: foolishly, without reservation, and so completely as to have been upended by his sudden absence. It took one man, six cities, an avalanche of text in a variety of mediums and a fair bit of improbability for me to fall in love, and as much as I hurt at the end, I wouldn't trade it for the world (insert Shakespeare here.) Ultimately, I admitted, in our last voice conversation (a drunk dial, during Bad Decisions Night,) that I'd probably have some sort of soft spot for him, and should he find himself in some sort of jam in which I could be of assistance, that he could call. He didn't reciprocate, and instead decided to tell me that he'd moved from doubting to decided while high on cactus on Family Day (which had fallen in the middle of my trip for our anniversary,) and while I went in search of another beer with which to continue bad decision-making, a number of things fell into relief, and the notion of breakup-as-bullet-dodged took root.

It bears mentioning, at this point, that I don't dream of him any longer, and haven't since our last conversation. Talking it out with a friend who knows us both (after I returned and before we actually broke up,) it was pointed out to me that one of us had no capability to reflect and be emotionally self-aware while the other did it constantly (as if running emotiond, for my UNIX nerds,) and that there was the central chasm to be bridged; I'd come further than halfway, but I couldn't make him reach out (though now I wonder if this was even possible.) Painful as it was to let go, holding on to someone who didn't want to be there would have been worse—I'd already made all my bad decisions in one night, after all, and was reduced to making sensible decisions (at least temporarily.) 

Months later, I still wonder sometimes about what happened in his head to take us from a place of "generally working, despite geography" to "full-stop-I-don't-love-this-man," but I've come to understand (finally, yes,) that I won't get that without his relating it to me, rendering it functionally unknowable. His lack of comprehension regarding inner states was something he'd been apologetic (though not contrite) about in his last email to me, and every friend of his I'd run in to post-breakup (on multiple occasions; big cities are small places, some times,) had said much the same: he'd never had a handle on his inner states, and our relationship was regarded as some possible sea change until its ending, which while unsurprising in its manner was surprising for even having existed. I have no idea what to make of this, though it does recontextualize the "he's dating you?" looks I got early on, when meeting his friends, from what I thought was a body mismatch thing (the ex is an urban cyclist/effortlessly skinny person, I am none of the above,) to more of a "he's dating anybody?" sort of thing rooted in being aware of someone else's lack of self awareness, for which there must be some sort of compact German word (and which I recognize as small comfort but will take, regardless.) That his realization only came to him via recreational psychedelics (and not via any sort of internal means, as near as I've been told,) is one of those things I worried about until it sunk in that he wasn't mine to worry about, any longer, and all I can do is sigh, shake my head, and hope that he found out some things about himself, and some things to make life easier for future loves.

I learned some things from him: I'm worth loving; a beard is a good idea; sometimes life will upend you and that's okay; every decision doesn't have to be a good one; understanding a risk doesn't preclude taking it; talking with strangers isn't the end of the world; things are ridiculous and so they may as well be embraced.
I learned some things because of him, too: my instincts are good ones; to talk about the things that are problems you when they are bothersome; life will sneak in via blind spots, and all you can do is roll with it; I have surrounded myself with a cadre of people who've kept me going through all sorts of bullshit and will continue to do so; things work until they don't, and it's nobody's fault, sometimes.

From here, though, there's one more story to be told (the one about meeting his parents,) and then I'm ready to close this chapter: I loved a man (my first), it didn't work, my heart was broken, and while I couldn't put it back together in exactly the same way, it became clear, over time, that this wasn't a bad thing.


May 10, 2012

sonnet slash unrealities eleven

it may not always be so; and I say
that if your lips, which I have loved, should touch
another's, and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart, as mine in time not far away;
if on another's face your sweet hair lay
in such a silence as I know, or such
great writhing words as, uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be, i say if this should be -
you of my heart, send me a little word;
that I may go unto him, and take his hands,
saying, Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall I turn my face, and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands.

— e.e. cummings


April 11, 2012

wax wings

The short version: east van party, invite from an old and incisive friend, creative writing MFAs, jokes about jokes about Lisa Loeb and Foucault and how he'd deal with her only hearing what she wanted to, a house named for its insane chandeliers, dancing well/terribly to a soundtrack split between relative modernity and highschool throwbacks, being reminded of who I was via a lengthy and detailed retelling of a weekend I don't remember and the things I got up to then, and then being given a reading which was both an obituary/about an obituary and also sort of compound heartbreaking.

tl;dr: a successful house party outing was had.

After this, an uneventful rest, a decent brunch with delightful company, a post-brunch adventure with different, delightful company, a haircut and the return of sunshine and a breeze about my ears and a bunch of musical guilty pleasures, before returning to Kits to take in an in-store performance (with a brief stopover to fall in nerd-love with a knife, which I had to sleep on, decision-wise, then went to buy and had to raincheck but now own.)

Full of free beer and late-March sunshine, I ran into a couple of my ex's friends, ones I'd met in Kelowna that time I went up to meet his parents (still a story for another time,) whose party we basically relocated at New Years' Eve, and into whom I ran periodically, by virtue of us all being into similar music and my tendency to hole up in coffee shops near their workplace. Unaware of my newly-single status until I told them (noting, grimly, their lack of surprise: both at the end of things and also at how they found out from me and not him,) we had one of those music-is-the-new-weather sort of discussions (appropriate, given the setting,) and then I got told: come over, drink, play video games. You're not seeing him any more, but we should still hang out.

Unsure of what I was getting myself into, some reflexive politeness kicked in and I found myself nodding, agreeing, making plans to meet a friend I'd only ever heard of as someone I would like, immensely, if the three of us were ever in the same city. Leaving Zulu with Kai, I wondered, aloud, what I was getting myself into, and then I was distracted by thoughts about that knife I wanted, and then I didn't bother thinking about it very much until Monday rolled around.

In fairness to everybody I actually saw that Monday, the visit and the gaming and the new-to-me friend were all uniformly pretty alright. It's certainly sort of surreal to deliver the end-of-relationship timeline to a bunch of people who would, in theory, be hearing it from the other half of the no-longer-relationship, and there's not much validation stranger than the sort received therein. Being told it wasn't a thing I did (but it also wasn't a thing I could do much about,) by people whose knowledge of his (apparently not terribly wide-ranging) interior states far surpassed my own (arguably my exposure was temporally incomparable but also wholly different in approach,) was a surprising comfort, and when conversation shifted (as it does, naturally, because this was all normal,) I realized that this bit wasn't a mistake, and that the nature of our relationship hadn't allowed for much cross-pollination of our friends, meaning that most things my people knew had been filtered through me (or witnessed, briefly, before we went off to make the most of the time we had alone,) and so this room of viewpoints was just as necessary as the ones I'd been consulting.

After the traded heartbreak stories, video games, a whole lot of "oh man have you heard this," and a surprisingly decent green curry, I headed home; feeling like I'd dodged a bullet, and so, unthinkingly, reached for my phone, fired up a Twitter client, and posted about what I'd been up to.

The response was immediate, and started out as public messages and then moved back to texts; focused on what had just happened, and how it came about, and how great the people I'd spent time with were, and what did I mean my siblings had known about us: I owed him a story.

I deflected, via text, and said something callous, and then thought better, and then explained that this was why I wasn't ready to be friends. He shifted topics, suddenly, and I nudged it back, and he shifted again; I found myself sort of puzzled by his obvious discomfort (while also trying to push down the urge to either throw my phone out a window or just leave it somewhere while I ran away from it,) and then made him do it again, realizing that it was a perhaps a sore spot for him, still, and wondered idly if maybe he wasn't over it as I thought he was.

Making an excuse to end the conversation (phone's dying, take care, we'll do this when I'm ready,) I was struck by how much I had wanted it to go like it had before; high-speed irreverence, how-was-your-day and what-the-hell-politics balanced with all the stupid in-jokes I'd derived comfort from, somehow, and the knowledge that the country that was in the way wasn't actually something that came between us. Of course, there no longer was an us, there, which also meant that his emotional state was a thing I didn't get advanced access to, nor was it something I needed to concern myself with, I thought.

He got bored, I said to myself, he's not yours, any more, let it go.

It didn't work, and then I found another set of archives, and then I realized I'd flown too close to the sun, and that avoiding thinking about a thing was by no means the same as being done with it, and as I pored through aggregated tweets (only the last 3200; in my case it goes back about ten months, in his it goes back about three years,) and rediscovered our google talk logs, (both of which more accessible than the text message archive I rightly am afraid to unpack—sleeping dogs, I think,) the dull ache I'd gotten used to became sharper, and I felt the all-too-familar sensation of anxiety rising, and the world falling away.

I don't really feel the need to rehash this, thus the short version (again): it sucked, for a while, and I lost my appetite again (and was resultantly a little worried about my relative asslessness and the state of my pants selection,) but things got better, slowly, and I filed away some more things I'd learned about myself, yet again.


April 04, 2012


Strut, fret, stamp, frown; walk it off, as if charley horses and broken hearts could be mended, alike.

Having been told that a city had taken my place in the heart of my no-longer-boyfriend, it seemed like a reasonable response to reclaim the one I'd grown up in, drowning out heartache with footfalls and preempting tears (that never came) with rain on cheekbones. So I went, across bridges, through liminal zonings, and into places I knew as if they were places I didn't; bearing headphones as social insulation and camera mostly out of force of habit.

With the world blocked out, I tried not to have imaginary conversations with the ex-lover in my head—mined from hindsight, those comprehensive and brutal archives scattered about the internet and the conversations I remember in all the places we exposed ourselves, figuratively and literally; both incomplete and exaggerated, it was the only place I could hope to find the barest insight. Though I knew it was a terrible idea, I prodded until the ache in my heart became a pit in my stomach, (like any other bruise that gets poked both to refresh the lingering painful memory of its origin and to assess the damage that still needs healing,) and wandered through days: glass-eyed and teetering, remembering to put a mask on in the appropriate places; working, slowly, towards feeling like an actual person again, and not some bearded shade, fuelled by bafflement and confusion and displeasure, yearning for an unknowable answer (as if knowing the whys or hows of a thing could make dealing with its fallout any easier.)

Throughout all this, my sister was in the hospital; her pregnancies having always been weirdly tense things, it came as little surprise that she'd been put on bed rest again, supervised to ensure minimal activity and shot full of things to address the problems that resulted in her admission and then shot full of some more things because lying around for a month solid results in a whole other host of issues. Also, there were blood tests and ultrasounds and various medical proddings scattered throughout, which meant that visits (daily, for as long as possible, usually after work and bearing better-than-hospital food,) were occasionally interrupted by some well-meaning and thankfully competent medical type person, sometimes shooing me away (what brother would want to know these things,) but also sometimes furnishing me with complexly technical discussions of what sort of things were going on as far as impending niece/nephew and/or the state of my sister's lady parts (see above re: what brother would want to know these things.)

In the midst of this, we got to talking: more and longer than we had in recent memory, and so my constant internal tug-of-war began anew, which, funnily enough, turned out to be a non-issue. Nestled deep in a conversation about why I was moving and how come I kept going to Toronto all of a sudden, my sister relayed an anecdote about our older brother: he kept tabs on her when she was my age (we've got an eight year gap,) while she was out without parental consent/knowledge and she would, accordingly, receive vague but supportive messages on her pager; stay safe, he'd say, I know where you are, let me know if you need a ride or things get weird. I'd never get these, she said, brotherhood being a different sort of beast (rendered stranger still by our nine year difference straddling a generational gap, to some extent,) but he worried, and he kept an ear to the ground, and when last summer rolled around and I kept leaving town for weddings (among other things,) they put their heads together, and found some things out. The short version: they knew I was gay, they'd known I was dating a man for about half the duration of our relationship, (from about I went to meet his parents—still a story for another time,) they were convinced I was moving to be closer to him and not for school, and they were concerned that this would be the end of me. Not in a death way per se, but in a self-exile no contact way; all of us will admit that we're not the fondest of each other but will freely fuck up whatever vector of discontent needs addressing, in the way of all siblings, really, and so the notion of leaving/cutting all ties over what turned out to be non-issues seems ridiculous, in retrospect.

Neither sibling was mad, or disappointed, or hurt; there was some surprise that I'd kept it from them for so long, agreement that keeping our parents in the dark was a necessity at the time but that they needed to hear about from me before they heard about it from someone else, and a low-level grudging admiration for having kept so much of it well-hidden for so long. I didn't ask about exactly how it came about; it seemed superfluous given what else I was being told and how much better I felt, being a little closer to no longer living a lie.

The rest of the week passed, the weather got better, and I did too, somewhat. I slept too little hammering out another one of these posts, and so I bailed on Friday post-work drinking after an early shift to slump on a couch and watch Avatar (the cartoon with the warrior-children; nobody is physically blue in it,) noting that buried in the back half of the final season of a kids show were surprisingly mature discussions of trust, communication, and ethics; I was going to talk about this to someone and then thought about drawing parallels and then laughed at myself, realizing that if I was suddenly drawing life lessons from kids shows (albeit excellent ones,) then maybe it was time to go drink in a house full of strangers. So we did.


March 23, 2012

event horizons

It's a bit like being told not to think of a pink elephant: moments later, find yourself inevitably weighing the texture of its ears, feeling space warp around it and letting it sink and bob and float in the peskiest part of your consciousness; aggravating in its seeming ability to disappear until an inopportune moment before appearing in some exaggerated form, filling all available brainspace.

Mine's no surrealist pachyderm, mind, but the red-haired man I haven't quite adjusted to no longer loving; tracing the arc of our time together starting with his number in my twitter inbox to our tentative first kiss in the rain (under a streetlight, after a night of craft beer samples,) all the way through to his last distant look into my eyes, one year and six cities later. In the middle lie memories of a year of furious textual innuendo, stretches of distance punctuated by ridiculous bursts of intimacy (I'm sorry, everybody's couches,) and feeling a little more complete as we drifted off, entangled (for a few days, once every couple of months.) It was, until the very end, a good relationship, and I was fairly certain that I was and was dating a good man.

I've been lucky, to some extent, that none of this hurts, per se, as much as I just sort of miss it. There've been a couple close calls, wondering if he's over me already (probably,) if at some point he hurt the way I did (probably not,) and if all the things that he can trace directly to me will remind him of the good times or of a life and a love he decided he needed a clean break from (who the fuck knows.) The actual bits where things hurt carried a physicality that was both unexpected and painful; different from an anxiety or a displeasure, more like some novel combination of instant-onset loneliness and a blow to the gut—something I am glad to experience as infrequently as possible.

It works out in my favor, then, to not have much in the way of tangibles; the bag I bought because we bought too much stuff in Portland, the glasses and tie he picked out for me on aforementioned Portland trip, a letter that was enclosed the time he mailed his computer to me so I could take it to work, a copy of The Trial (which I should return, come to think of it.) There's a row of bottles of Scotch we were supposed to drink together (I refused to fly with them, though, so it was going to wait until we at least lived in the same city,) a single t-shirt bearing a Toronto streetcar (ironic, when I think about the reason he gave for bringing things to an end,) and a whole archive of photos, which has been both the hardest to deal with (being a literal record,) and the easiest (editing photos is an autopilot sort of thing, now.)

Having never really thought about how these things work, I'd assumed that discussing the end of things with people would be fairly boilerplate, but that's been far from the case. In the midst of yet another explanation to yet another friend (don't feel bad, friends, I know you ask because you care, and I treasure you all for it,) I found words coming out that I hadn't been thinking before, about how there were things I was busy not seeing, which in retrospect were both emblematic and problematic. There was a callousness towards people he'd come to take for granted; the manner in which I was sprung on his parents (a story for another time,) spoke to that, as well as some enormously insensitive comment that left me reminding him to apologize to a best friend. Hindsight also reveals that I made excuses for his doing things I wouldn't have pulled (and would hope someone called me on,) and also that the space from which the end of our relationship arose and the manner of his sullen, silent ending of it were ultimately things I let myself be surprised by.

I probably shouldn't have been surprised, then, when he took an in-joke of ours (the absurd phenomenon that arises when a big dog and a little dog encounter each other; draw parallels at your own risk,) and turned it into a single-serving tumblr and sent me the first message since our breakup and/or Bad Decisions Night 2012 during a launch day at work. I found myself not really wanting to deal with it, bafflingly missing my appetite (which comes and goes, still; I've gone down a pant size,) and just sort of displeased that he'd take something that I'd considered a joint thing and decided on taking it somewhere I wasn't entirely on board with. My response was measured but displeased, making it clear I needed more time before I was ready to resume a friendship (but that the desire existed,) and his response was both unrepentant and dismissive, missing the point I thought I'd made and being generally revealing of where he was, as far as I was concerned.

I had a whole paragraph in my head about this but really it's been sort of useful in moving this whole episode from a thing I miss to a thing I enjoyed-but-am-done-with, mostly.

Reconfigure associations, rebuild the maps in my head without the places defined with "we", and return to being okay with being myself: amateur semiotics as heartbreak prophylactic?


March 12, 2012

tragedy starts from the very first spark

in retrospect, I knew it was over when I tried to kiss him goodbye and he pulled away with a look I'd never seen before: something final, something distant. From there, it was anxious grasping at straws on the subway, the bus, and the plane; was it something I'd done, or simply who we'd become, or some other endlessly examined permutation of discontent. I came home and went to/threw myself at work the next morning, at which point it was another week before I tried contact, and another week and a half before we resolved things.

I shouldn't say resolved, really: we broke up. He'd started with doubts that ended with falling out of love with me and in love with a city, and I was tired of his inability to communicate things until they were past fixing, his response to my attempt at some level of adult discourse, and the generally shitty way he treated me the last time we were actually together.

I had an early shift at work, a house party in the evening, and two days off immediately afterwards, which seemed like an ideal time to do an unpleasant thing, so while I sat on Kai's couch and ate an enormous burrito, I worked through the things I wanted to say, how best to walk away from a thing I'd been trying to salvage while knowing it was unsalvageable; in short, how best to let it die.

Then the response came: apologetic about the treatment I'd received, 20/20 in hindsight,  explicative of how distance and novelty and a desire to make a place his own meant that what we had no longer fit in to the context of the rest of his life, and though he'd reached this decision weeks ago, he couldn't actually say it until today.

It was a relief, honestly; I didn't think my chances of getting him to change the things I was bothered by were very good, my recent acceptance to PJ school meant at least another two years of distance and I was sort of glad we both wanted out, because it made the phone call easier—it was brief, and oddly mature, and we'd agreed it was a good first relationship, that everything but the last 2.5 weeks was something we'd look back on fondly, and that the other was a pretty alright  guy. He thanked me for not being crazy; I joked that it was only going so well because neither of us knew how these things normally went. Nobody cried, no voices were raised, it was how I'd always imagined adults in relationships went about solving problems, which made its placement right at the end of ours both wrenching and funny.

I had a night of bad decisions, which I live-tweeted and then storified for posterity. It's here, if you're curious.

Since then, it's been hangover recovery, general ennui, skipping things on shuffle when the first four bars make my stomach flip over because I'm not sure how I'm going to react and in public is not the best place to find out, right now, and reflecting.

We did have a good run, and built a relationship from an offhand Tweet about porn funk in Montreal elevators, five weeks of texting, and the weirdly happy accident of a spare ticket to a Godspeed You! Black Emperor show. It took me to Portland, for maybe the best second date/five day vacation you could ever want, to Nanaimo and back to Montreal on diversions from weddings, Kelowna to meet the parents (and understand his adolescence/restlessness/the space from where our eventual end arose,) and to Toronto twice more, once just enough to see that we could maybe carve a place out of our own, and once to see just how wrong I was, earlier.

I'm left with a mountain of tweets, somewhat thankfully archived (but available to marketers and the Library of Congress, somehow,) an explosion of photographs, an archive of texts I don't know what to do with, a bunch of music he put on my external drive, a letter he sent, an emoticon we invented, four bottles of single-malt, and a year of memories of the first man I loved.

It's darkly funny that he told me he didn't love me any more almost precisely a year after he first told me he did and also that we bookended our time together with photowalks along railroad tracks, and I have no doubt hindsight will fill in other gaps, both bitterly and sweetly.

From here, though, all that's left is to take the positive with me, learn from the rest, let myself mourn, a little (but not wallow,) take comfort and joy in the grace and strength of my friends, and get ready to face whatever's next.


March 11, 2012

and so we came to the end


March 04, 2012

cooler heads

this one I'm sleeping on, and then sending, maybe.

my sister's in the hospital until the baby's born, which in an ideal world works out to some time in late April (full term is early June, shit got real, basically.) I've been spending most of my evenings visiting and don't see that as terribly likely to change in the near future, which makes the discussion I keep wanting to have with you sort of unlikely, timing-wise. Also, if the baby's born in late April, I'm probably not going anywhere for a while, which I think is okay with us both, for the time being.

at the same time, if I don't express this thing that's been bothering me since I was somewhere over Manitoba I'm going to end up with an ulcer, so here goes:

The first time I wrote this out I ended up with four intermittently apoplectic pages, give or take. There was also a fair bit of catharsis, but not a whole lot that lent itself to actual forward motion; it felt like one side of a shouting match* and the less said about those the better. To some extent it was useful to get it down somewhere, and hopefully it's not something I feel the need to do, again.

What it did highlight, though, aside from making clear how I felt (concise version: underfoot and then resented; neither of them something you want to encounter from a loved one, on vacation, or both,) and the ways and means by which I resultantly alternated between bafflement, sorrow, and fury, was how I got to feeling what I'm still feeling, ten days and four thousand kilometres later.

Here, then, lies the crux of the issue: if I'm having a problem with something you're doing and/or how it affects me, and I try to discuss it rationally, and I'm going to get put through days of silence, emotional distance, and concealed displeasure, which is going to happen every time I bring something up (and it might not, but I have no way of knowing,) then my choices in a situation like this are as follows: get put through the wringer again (and what a wringer it is), or be a doormat.

It's an enormously shitty feeling to realize this, Aidan, and it's even worse to do it having spent all sorts of time and effort getting across the country, bearing gifts and baring self because we'd spun around the sun once since we started this thing and I succumbed to my worst hopeless romantic impulses, having thought you'd be if not excited then at least pleased, on some level, to see me.

I'm still not entirely sure what happened, but I don't think it's worth dwelling on more than is necessary, certainly there are things for us to take away but I'd much rather look to what comes next—I don't think this is insurmountable, I am still in love with you and I do, very much, want this to work out.

That said, it does still take two to tango (and we are, if that reception in Montreal was any indication, terrible at slow dancing) and what I need to know is that my attempts at raising concerns won't lead us down this path again, because it's painful in the short term and destructive in the long term. I'd like to be told when things aren't working for you, and if there's something I can do to make it right, goddamnit, Aidan, you're important to me and your happiness is absolutely part of that. I'd like an apology, certainly, but I also feel like I'm asking for a lot already, so that one's totally up to you. I don't like that we're here, but I'm going to try and keep us from being in this position again because I don't think either of us are enjoying it and there are so many double entendres I could just slide right in, here.

I love you, Aidan, and you said, last we spoke, that you like talking to me, still. It's a thing we're pretty good at, and maybe it's a good place to start, again.

* I saw enough of these, growing up, I'd rather not go this route or be that person.


March 03, 2012

he took a duck in the face

in what will surprise nobody, I am freely lifting a mechanism from a William Gibson novel as a method of dealing with how I'm feeling; this time it's from Pattern Recognition, in which Cayce is told to write letters to people before not sending them as a way to work through people-related situations. 

I got in, and then we didn't do the things you'd planned, sidetracked by errands and school and your bros, and I found this upsetting, after a while. I spent a night being distant and angry and unsure of how to proceed, and the next morning I tried to apologize, realizing the absurdity of wasting what little time we had together by being pointlessly furious, and mentioned that I wanted to talk about this later.

You said, in bed, after your day on peyote (in the company of your friends, who later apologized for timing this during my visit, claiming ignorance on their part and leadership on yours,) that my concerns were valid and my manner reasonable; too reasonable, even. I was careful to keep an even tone and not to assign blame, but simply laid out the manner in which your actions left me feeling somewhere between underfoot and unwanted, which was I was sure far from your intention and possibly a result of an overload of daily life, grad school, the sheer novelty of this whole thing, and unclear expectations of mine. I'd felt this way for a while, but didn't want to saddle you with a bad trip, so I sat on it for a bit (and realized, later, that maybe the morning sex and the evening talk was spectacularly awful mixed messaging.) You apologized, then, and buried your face in your pillow, and seemed more upset than I was about it, so I pulled you close (or tried, anyway) to remind you that this wasn't something either of us had experience with, that I didn't think it was the end of the world, that I wanted to be convinced that you wanted me there, and that, ultimately, I knew we'd get through this because we'd already made it this far.

Falling asleep, I looked at you and thought that we'd be okay, that we'd hit a speedbump and talked about it, that you'd understood me (like you always did,) that we'd wake up tomorrow and it'd be a new day. I sighed a little, smoothed out your hair a little, and slept.

I woke up, and something wasn't right; it felt like you weren't entirely present, and you alternated between sullen and vindictive when we were alone but dropping the facade when we were with other people; no hands held, the barest of acknowledgement but alone time together—everything I wanted, in the worst way possible.

It was fucking awful, in a nutshell. As you're now aware, I don't react well to the silent treatment and as I pleaded with you, for all intents and, to come back to me, you pulled the walls higher, until I spent half a night on the couch, buried in a book, because I couldn't stand to have you so near physically and so far in every other way. We still went out over those days, and I executed the brunch you'd thought would be fun (but didn't get any sort of plan together, somewhat unsurprisingly) and there was a wander through a park and some graffiti, a park, an exhibit and a niece-request-led shopping trip and a variety of things that would have otherwise maybe have been fun, had I not been frozen out.

Here, then, lies the crux of the issue: if I'm having a problem, and I try to discuss it rationally, and this is going to happen every time I bring something up (and it might not, but I have no way of knowing,) then my choices in a situation like this are as follows: get put through the wringer again (and what a wringer it is), or be a doormat.

It's an enormously shitty feeling to realize this, Aidan, and it's even worse to do it having spent all sorts of time and effort getting across the country, bearing gifts and baring self because we've spun around the sun once since we started this thing and I succumbed to my worst hopeless romantic impulses, having thought you'd be if not excited then at least pleased, on some level, to see me.

When you left, I tried to break down your wall, convinced that it was the last chance I'd get, and as you walked away having issued all sorts of non-answers to my obviously distressed questions, I was pretty sure that was the last I'd see of you. I threw myself at the last errands I needed to run before leaving Toronto, bought dinner, and headed back to get my things, hand off my key to your place, and actually leave. I wasn't sure I'd keep food down, so Stefan had the majority of the roti I'd bought while I downed a pair of scotches and explained, in some detail, the depth of my confusion and nascent fury. He was both understanding and apologetic, trying to convince me that you weren't a lost cause and that I hadn't wasted a year generally and a week, specifically.

I left, unable to shake your last words, and followed with seven hours of dwelling on train, bus, and plane, ending outside the airport but before I got into a car with my parents, who'd been kept ignorant of the whole thing (boyfriend, distance, anniversary, troubles.)

I came home to an acceptance letter, and so I told you, and you congratulated me (an infuriating one-eighty, right as I touched down, it seemed,) and after that I made no effort for ten days, partially because I knew you were drowning in schoolwork and also because I wanted to see what happened.

Nothing happened; I stewed, and consulted friends who'd survived long-distance relationships and vented to confidantes and realized I'd done all I could, and that ultimately the means of continuation lie outside my influence, and there isn't much I can do but ask you not to do that again, to match my rationality with your own, to show or tell or somehow make clear that this isn't something I can go through and that fuck you I deserve better, because I do.

All I really want is an apology and a good-faith commitment to engage when I try and bring up how I'm feeling. I feel like it's not too much to ask, and I know we're both stubborn men (your mother warned me, after she asked about kids and before she mentioned how she thought that bag we bought in Portland was delightful,) but I need you to bend, here, or you're going to break me.

love, still,


until, unknown / tear your hair out

I have to ask myself some days: what are you afraid of, exactly?

spent a week in Toronto, half of it feeling unwanted and another half being paranoid that this was the end of my until-now stress-free long-distance relationship, ending with a pair of ambiguous statements outside a subway station, followed by seven hours of dwelling on train, bus, and plane, ending outside the airport but before I got into a car with my parents, who'd been kept ignorant of the whole thing (boyfriend, distance, anniversary, troubles.)

I think we're due for a conversation about where we are and where we're going, but I should probably first make clear the source and extent of my unhappiness with the way I was treated, ideally in a manner less oblique than my current venting via mixtape and twitter.


January 01, 2012

this way madness lies

I've been doing this since 2004, and see no reason to stop.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?

I travelled a lot, to the point that I spent something like a solid month out of town. I had the same job at the end of the year that I had at the beginning, shot a bunch of weddings, got promoted twice, got a phone number over Twitter that turned into a texting crush that's since turned into a baffling/delightful relationship (albeit a long distance one,) I met someone else's parents as the boyfriend, mailed cookies all over the place, and started making serious exit plans.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

get out of debt: partially
reduce the amount of clothing I own: yes.
wear clothing that would pass without comment any time in the last 60 years: not so much?

2012 is pretty simple: leave. the city, the closet, the nonsense.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Thankfully, no.

5. What countries did you visit?
I went to Portland, once, but I also went to Montreal, Saltspring Island, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Montreal again, and then Toronto.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
debt freedom, a Belleville address, fewer hours spent in flight.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
montreal trip #1: bits of Nash, the Johnnies, exploring the city, jokes about daggering; constant furious texting.
valentines day, the godspeed concert two days after, the morning after the concert.
phone calls from fernie (the city), train trip to portland and all that entailed, weekend visits and seeing the Mountain Goats, sneaking out of post-reception madness in Nanaimo to see the dude, inadvisable three-day overnight greyhound trips (gigantic waffles! goats-milk gelato! being judged on hugs!) montreal trip #2 and seeing Wilco. A whirlwind tour of Toronto, seeing people I hadn't for far too long (Jess, Goh, Hayles, Jake,) and the growing realization that it was a place I could live.

also: all of the weddings.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
ten months of a long distance relationship, two promotions at work, eight weddings survived. Also I grew a sweet beard.

9. What was your biggest failure?
my debt load isn't as small as I'd like, somehow.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
not really?

11. What was the best thing you bought?
delegate fees to Nash 73 and a plane ticket to Montreal. honourable mentions: new phone, train tickets to portland, hot-wire.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
They know who they are.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
They know who they are, too.

14. Where did most of your money go?
debt, travel, wedding gifts, single malts.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
travel, concerts, Aidan.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
James Blake, "The Wilhelm Scream." or The National, "Wake Up Your Saints."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? happier.
b) thinner or fatter? fatter, which I'm working on.
c) richer or poorer? richer; I got promoted twice.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Admitting, working.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
waking up alone.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
At home, getting ready for Boxing Day madness at work.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
yes. [insert expletives here] yes.

22. How many one-night stands?

23. What was your favourite TV program?
Community, Good Eats, Avatar: The Last Airbender. TV's not something I consume a whole lot of anymore.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Nobody new.

25. What was the best book you read?
man I did not read nearly as much as I used to, but The Pale King is probably at the top of the list for obvious reasons. Photo-book-wise, I was surprised that Annie Leibovitz At Work was actually fairly informative, and I still want to make basically everything out of the Baked cookbook.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I'd seen Wye Oak a couple of times previously, but I got my hands on the My Neighbour/My Creator EP and then Civilian, and they were both really, really good.
The Rural Alberta Advantage, while not new strictly speaking, acquired serious playtime, and somehow I left it until 2011 before getting into Elliott Smith.

27. What did you want and get?
I fell in love, found a viable-though-not-ideal career, and some technological bullshit.

28. What did you want and not get?
A little more freedom, knowledge that things will function at home in my absence.

29. What was your favourite film of this year?
Drive, since I didn't watch anything.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
26; I went out on the Saturday after for dinner/karaoke/beers and then went to Portland with Aidan the week after that.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
being able to find myself next to Aidan more frequently than once every six weeks.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
more cardigans, chambray, and fuck-you chinos, better ties, more texture.

33. What kept you sane?
I'm not really sure.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Tom Hardy, with Chuck Hughes (yes, the chef) a surprisingly strong second.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Occupy, SOPA/Access Copyright, Jack Layton's passing.

36. Who did you miss?
I ran into a lot of people I hadn't seen in a while via the eight weddings I attended and while part of the experience left me missing people, part of it also made me realize that we're not so much growing apart as we are carving our own ways, and that's actually pretty alright.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
Aidan's the obvious one here, and I can see him rolling his eyes as he reads this, so I'll exempt him for obvious reasons.

new kids: John Cameron and Emma Godmere from CUP, Camille and Calvin and Mike from work, Ginny from the Ubyssey, and Aidan's friends Jake, Ryan and Jess.
people I got in touch with again, which don't count as new per se but are noteworthy: A bunch of people in Toronto, Thor, Keltie, and my on again/off again nemesis Chris Berube.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
Twitter: who knew it would get you a boyfriend, a couple paying gigs, and a place to actually connect with friends?

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
the cities love is cold and the cities love is hard

locked into our veins from the first September's frost

January snap and the April winter thaw

rough and tumble summers underneath the midnight sun

— The Rural Alberta Advantage, Good Night


I'll make a living telling people what they want to hear

It's not a killing, but it's enough to keep the cobwebs clear

Cause it's not a perfect plan

It's not a perfect plan

But it's the one we've got.

— St. Vincent, Champagne Year