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.