November 24, 2013

the surprise of the week / was that I never heard the sound

I made three mistakes at once when my phone buzzed: I swiped to answer without seeing who it was, I didn't excuse myself from the table, and when I looked at who it was that was calling, I didn't think about the last time we'd spoken.

We were out for 5/6ths of an anniversary, which is an admittedly ridiculous thing (but par for the course, given us;) checking out the soft-open at a gastropub deal whose fame was wrought from a hundred and forty separate taps for beer and a small town of infrastructure spent on dispensing it. Prior to that, we'd put ties on for no real reason and followed pizza with gelato (though they didn't have the apparently elusive lemon cake gelato flavour that we enjoy enormously.) Until this point it was a fairly pleasant evening; full of both pizza and adoration, I sat behind a beer and made small talk, pausing occasionally to squeeze a thigh or lean over for a kiss and associated pleased noise.

In the brief moment between swiping to answer and putting the phone to my ear, I'd assumed that the call was something groomsman-related (though it was still a couple weeks away, the wedding in Toronto loomed large for a number of reasons,) when it was, in fact, a reenactment of the last time we'd spoken on the phone, when Jordie had called to tell me one of our friends had died (two days after a call to ask for a recent photo, because he was missing.)

Rob i—was.
Rob was someone I'd met via friend Jackie, whose partner he'd been until fairly recently, and whose first introductions to the gang involved us referring to him as Dr. Dreamlove, largely as a method of reducing confusion with the other Rob we all knew. What I'd taken for some initial reticence turned out to be a charming awkwardness combined with a tendency to observe, and so through combined forces of time, conversation, and fragments of shared writing, we developed what I'd like to think of as an understanding and eventual fondness. We bonded over unclehood, the intermittently incomprehensible difficulties of religious families, and later on, about beards (his was denser, but I had better volume.)
Rob had been found in a hotel room, alone; whether it had been old habits gone awry or old ghosts that had pushed him into a place we couldn't follow would require a toxicology screen to determine (though I know one was done, I don't know if I want to know what the results were.)

I'd seen him last from afar at a concert, and remembered that he looked more different than a mere change of haircut should have entailed. The last time we'd spoken was after Trevor's wake and the weeks of packing away an apartment, divvying up the things Kate couldn't actually bear to look at, and heaving deep sighs over drinks.

Conveniently enough, there was a drink in front of me, so I sighed, took a sip, and sent a text, partially because I was unclear on etiquette for texting a friend upon learning of the passing of their ex-partner but mostly because I didn't think I could have handled a phone call at that particular moment.

When the phone rang the second time, I checked who it was (Jackie,) excused myself from the table, and rushed past a gauntlet of what appeared to be decorative brewing equipment before answering, literally bracing myself into a window frame, exchanging condolences and messages of love, brief life updates (we're okay, still, somehow, should stay that way, jesus, lather, rinse, repeat,) and managing, through barest margin and greatest exertion, not to cry while on the phone in the foyer.

It didn't take much to make us old hands.


May 03, 2013

footnotes from a vacation, part one

The cat found out first1.

Emboldened by distance and encouraged by the gentleman caller, I'd crossed a pair of Rubicons in typical late-gay-bloomer fashion: until that point, all my relationships had been monogamous (in practice, if not in theory,) and I hadn't gone in for no-strings-attached affairs, either. I had only fooled around with dudes who I'd at least spoken to before and intended to speak to afterwards, though admittedly that didn't always work out—sometimes it was me coming to my senses, though.

I walked home2 bearing a six-packand an equal or possibly greater volume of uncertainty, then proceeded to drink one of those beersfar faster than was necessary before simultaneously debriefing the dude5 and queuing up a list of songs to sing, loudly, badly, at aforementioned cat. I drank another one in the shower, music up loud enough that it could be heard above the water, then stepped out: clean, damp, buzzed, slightly hoarse, still unsure about what I'd done (aside from the obvious, though really that was more of a who.)

In retrospect, it seems a bit ridiculous: we'd established the framework, I'd been clear about what I'd be up to while out of town, and even when I asked, looking for an out, I received the same steady, patient encouragement I'd been given throughout6. Despite this, I sat down to add a couple more songs to a playlist, caught my own reflection in the screen, and asked the cat7 if I'd irrevocably fucked up a relationship with a man I was too busy telling myself I couldn't love to realize that I did.

The cat didn't answer in a way that I could understand, unless her nuzzling up against my calves was morse-encoded, and if that's the case I freely admit to having less of an idea as to what goes on, any more.

One of my hosts came home shortly after, and the rest of the day passed in the sort of blur I could probably reconstruct via forensic twitter and careful examination of message logs but won't, in service of vacation myths. Under the guise of a bar crawl there were fancy drinks (six through eleven, as it were,) a brisk walk past Super Sexe (with brief-but-necessary instagram stop,) and a final stop for bagels8 before returning to Parc-Ex, to hydrate and sleep, eventually.

We said our goodbyes underground the next morning, headed in opposite directions on the same subway line; back to work or onwards to further vacationing, respectively. One train, bus, and plane later, I landed at Pearson, sent off a quick landed-safely text to my folks and email to the dude9, picked an album I hadn't yet listened to10 and set off in search of my luggage. I got lost, as one does in unfamiliar airports, but made it to the carousels in time to see my flight's stuff spill slowly out onto the conveyor belt, all the while half-listening to some song about being saved from the grip of a mountain should a plane fall.

I stood spaced out and waiting, half-asleep and more than a little hung over; the singer geared up her longing a notch, and I was struck by a remembrance the last time I'd stood and waited for luggage in this particular airport, and the week that followed. I shook my head (as if these thoughts could be dislodged,) spotted my luggage, and went to grab it before beginning the bus-train-streetcar journey from Toronto's airport to, well, actual Toronto11.

1. predictably, the cat wasn't sure what I was up to: our relationship, thus far, having been that I gave friendly words and behind-ear scratches in exchange for good morning headbutts to the beard, intermittent purring, and, just once, a kneading that I was puzzled enough to record video of—to be informed later that it was a comfort-seeking behaviour. I sneeze less now, so maybe I was being given more than I thought, there.

2. Used here as a flexible, almost post-geographical kind of thing:
in Montreal, where Kristen will tell me off if and when necessary, it's in Parc-Ex, where Little India hosts the Greek Day parade and what it apparently the city's best souvlaki joint is a stumble down the block;
in Vancouver it's divided between the couches I wake up on with some regularity and where, you know, my mailing address is;
it's also wherever Rob is, largely due to his habit of welcoming me home whenever I see him, no matter where we are.

3. I stopped for beer, afterwards, at the same depanneur where I'd had a sandwich, before, and the clerk there (from whom I'd bought a different six-pack the day before, and had a brief but pleasant chat about trading Vancouver's rain for Montreal's snow,) cocked an eyebrow, as if he knew I'd been up to something in the time between visits but said nothing, blissfully.

4. making it number three on the day; numbers one and two having been consumed under the guise of testing the reasonableness of actually having a beer called a breakfast IPA for/with breakfast. The preliminary decision was that it was doable, since an earl grey-spiked beer combined both tea and toast, in a way, but further testing was necessary for a proper verdict.

5. all of our relationship discussions thus far have been via text message, involved some amount of nudity, or both; if for whatever reason our iMessage history gets PATRIOT ACT-d someone is going to have one hell of a time.

6. the man is a gem, if it wasn't clear.

7. in the way of things unthought until they were said and once said, unretractable. Long-time readers may notice a theme.

8. I have a photo of Kristen, full Asian glow in effect, biting into a sesame bagel around her wrist. I have no idea how we got there, and the more I think about it, the happier I am to let it remain a mystery.

9. I knew my folks would be awake and the dude wouldn't be; that I'd glanced at my watch, done the time zone math, and knew his routine well enough to make the adjustment was one of those things I figured everybody did (and found out later that it wasn't.)

10. I figured that two cross-country flights, one shorter one, and a bunch of unfamiliar public transit meant it was a good time to check out some stuff I hadn't heard before, both because I wasn't going to be doing a whole lot of acquisition but also because it made room for fresh associations. Sometimes this works too well, though: I can't listen to Janelle Monae's first EP without thinking of Edmonton.

11. While drinking a very large iced tea more quickly than was sensible and waiting to board, I looked one gate to the left and realized I could have flown directly to downtown Toronto; at the time I  recall wondering what my third questionable call of the day would be.


February 10, 2013

[in progress]

Line up another list of four-minute loops of melancholy, then sing along until your voice gives out. Do this thing in the hopes that it might dislodge that small and persistent ache stuck at the core of you—accreted or ejected: pearl or projectile, depending.

Repeat this, to no great result, until you realize it's not something that's happened yet but some baffling and entirely novel problem: good man, bad timing, looming spectre of departures and agreed-upon end dates fuelling some sort of advance preview on heartbreak.

Wake up holding him, watch late winter's grey light filter through curtains and onto his sleeping form, careful not to disturb the hand of yours he holds; adjust the big-spoon-arm you still have no idea what to do with and wonder how this is a thing you can do and feel like you will miss simultaneously.

Note the ways you both enforce agreed-upon distances and the places you stop yourselves and each other: discuss public displays of affection while walking and then segue into whether either of you has had any success out in the world of other dudes. Do the same thing when he's settling into your arms as you go to bed for the night, or at a dinner party when you go to fish out a cat GIF and remark upon the dating site emails that only seem to pop up in his company.

Tell him to be less compelling, adorable, thoughtful; remind him he's liked (enormously, mind.) Mostly, though, remind yourself; maybe it'll stick, but it has yet to.

He'll start, just a little, when one of your friends refers to him as your boyfriend and as you start to deflect now and explain later how he's not and what that means (noting her mild skepticism and not-so-mild concern,) recognize that your central ache has shifted, slightly, and that you don't know whether it's the explanation or the necessity thereof that still bothers you.

Find yourself startled by the unlikelihood of a work dream and a moment of unrecognized surroundings before letting the arm around you and the deep, even breaths of a man firmly dreaming lull you back to sleep. You both snore, occasionally; don't think about how you've gotten pretty good at nudging the other into a position where it's less troublesome.

Step on a scale after wondering why none of your pants fit properly any more, and realize that the gentle and persistent increase of your stress level left you without an appetite: you're down twenty pounds, this thing is quite literally consuming you. Recognize this as both convenient and alarming, and make a note to eat better, since you're eating less.

Out for drinks with your friends, get called on all of this, hard. They do it from a place of concern, and they'll be right in pointing out that none of this is good for you on a variety of levels and that you can't think your way out of this: without actually talking to him, this isn't going to go anywhere and as much as you can try to convince yourself whatever has gone on so far is working, there's physical evidence to the contrary.

Out for drinks with his friends, have a pair of asides as you get moved from bar to table; one about a tweet from the night before about the value of being told things you needed but didn't want to hear, the other about not being sure about what to introduce you as (there's an inadequacy in 'friend,' a discomfort in 'boyfriend,' an absurdity in 'gentleman caller,') and mention, briefly, that the relationship that you set out to have isn't the one you've been having, of late.

Table it, for the rest of the night, so that you can get back to the business of meeting his people and later laying waste to them at Street Fighter. He'll beam, and turn the moment into one of those looping internet video deals, and kiss you on the forehead when you win the third match of five, causing one of his coworkers to demand double or nothing on the bets (the one who bet against you in the first round, which he will soon learn is unwise.)

Leave early, again, having to work the next day, and get pulled into a serious kiss; add this to the brief list you've been making in the off chance you have to rebut his claims of detachment (aware, wholly, that it's not like it would make a difference if he didn't want to be there, any more.) Pretty much everything on the list are things you find exceedingly endearing, though; consider it a potential add-on to the things you like about him, if this keeps going.

Before dinner and a movie (the movie ends up being a bunch of RuPaul's Drag Race that you have on your laptop,) end up on his couch, looking at each other, his hands on your knees and yours in your lap, afraid to ask a question but knowing the alternative is worse. Remember, briefly, ducks to faces at two hundred and forty knots; breathe deep, and start out by checking in. You're both okay with where things are, and though it's not something that either of you planned for, it's been more than alright, so far. It's still not forever, and it's not entirely monogamous (which is totally fine, as long as he comes back with good stories, you tell him; he says to do the same when you're off on vacation next month,) but it's nice to be able to reconfigure. The casual pretence is gone, and you hadn't really thought about how it's surprisingly pleasant to be attached (but you are, to him, who is delightful, so.)

Think about but don't mention how, the first time you were on this couch, you talked about being adults and getting to decide what this looked like, and that here you are, being adults and deciding what this looks like. Remember the preemptive rebuttals you'd drafted, and move them over to the things you like about him column; tell him about it first, just to see what face gets pulled (it's not the smug dimple, this time, but a sheepish grin you're happy to kiss off his face.)

From there, it's a lot easier; movies are usually chosen on grounds of ignorability and this one is no different, after a few hours of watching and not watching drag queens vie for a ton of money and engage in arguably the most postmodern of reality TV shows, head to bed. You won't sleep for a while, yet, but when you do get around to it, he'll hold your hand to his chest and nestle contentedly, like the same weight's been lifted from both your shoulders.

Settle in to sleep and recognize the lack of central ache, thankfully. Hum eight bars of a song you realize you don't really need to lean on any more, pull him a little closer, and close your eyes.


January 01, 2013

another year, another little survey deal.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before?
saw the second anniversary of a workplace, actually managed to stay in a relationship for a year, had a one-night stand, caved to internet dating, went to a high-school reunion, saw a net reduction in the number of books I own, came out to my siblings, grew an even fuller beard, started thinking about what I want my 30s to look like. I made plans to leave Vancouver, only to realize I'd done the right things for the wrong reasons and another year made the most sense.

oh, and I got my heart broken.

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

leave the city: no
get out of debt: no
leave the closet: my siblings know, so a little bit?

2013: learn javascript and python, regain the ability to speak French, get out of debt and get ducks in a row for Belleville.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! I have a nephew, now.

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

5. What countries did you visit?
I went to Portland, once, and that was about it.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
a clearer career path, a smaller waist size, the ability to pare my belongings down to an absolute minimum.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
New Years and straight-dude-makeout-offs, brunch, and secrets; Toronto trip and the beginning of the end; Bad Decisions Night; my sister and I dropping a couple facades;  Radiohead in Seattle; The Wooden Sky show at the Biltmore and the acoustic closing bits; birth of the little dude; the PDXcellent trip; Wye Oak/Dirty Projectors, the weeks of my parents' absence; advance breakup information release, the ton of launches.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I got into a school that I'd been wanting to attend for an age (only to realize it wasn't yet doable.) Also I wrote basically a dissertation (8,000 words!) on things I learned after the end of my relationship, which was useful for me and apparently enlightening for others.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I half-baked a plan to leave so I could be closer to a dude who was in the process of falling out of love with me, and even after we ended things I was pretty set on going forth; I'm not sure if the ultimate decision not to go ahead with it or the fact that I even went there was the failure in question but I guess that's what hindsight is for.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I had to have a root canal, also some serious heartache, but otherwise not really.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Marty the Retina MBP.
Honorable mentions: cardigans, another trip to Portland, the 70-200/2.8L lens.

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, stupid shit, single malts.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
leaving (until I didn't,) my new nephew, future life goals.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
Wye Oak - "Civilian" and Fiona Apple - "Werewolf" (though the RAA's Stamp is an honorable mention.)

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

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

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Admitting, saving, giving myself room to breathe.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
waking up alone, being the world's mopiest nerd, buying stuff I didn't need.

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

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?
nope, though I may have broken someone's heart.

22. How many one-night stands?
one, and I'm not sure if I'm up for another.

23. What was your favourite TV program?
Homeland, RuPaul's Drag Race, The Legend of Korra.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Nobody new, but it's not like it was a long list to begin with.

25. What was the best book you read?
fiction: 1Q84 almost by default; a lot of the other stuff I read this year was either schlocky or unfinished.
photo book: the catalog from the Alexander McQueen at the NY Met is gorgeous.
cookbook: the smitten kitchen book.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
It was a good year: Bat for Lashes, Hood, Baroness, Beach House, Purity Ring, Swans, Tim Hecker, Fucked Up, and The Men.

27. What did you want and get?
a new macbook, a couple lenses, physical and psychic preparations for leaving.

28. What did you want and not get?
an amicable breakup, if such a thing was possible; also I didn't get out.

29. What was your favourite film of this year?
Moonrise Kingdom, though if I'd seen Cloud Atlas I'd probably put it here.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
27, and I joined in on the Ricardobel Birthday festivities.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Just one? More money in the bank would have taken care of most of my headaches, really.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
camo, chambray, cardigans, and florals.

33. What kept you sane?
I'm not really sure. I'm generally not, having come to the conclusion that if I think too much about it whatever tenuous balance I've attained will topple.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Anderson Cooper? Paul Rudd? Damian Lewis? Whatever, I'm easy.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
gun control in the states, the slow unfolding of gay marriage across the US, the continued blood ban.

36. Who did you miss?
I miss Rob more than anybody; Hayles and Kristen aren't far behind, so this trip I'm planning for Easter is pretty pleasing to me.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
A bunch of coworkers: Dickie, Keegan, Spooner, BZ, Greenie and Adam make work bearable most days, and this year I reconnected pretty seriously with one Andrew, aka Chinny; between the couch and the pep talks and the shopping buddy-dom, I don't know if I'd have made it through this year in quite the same shape without him.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:

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.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

Pacing down the balance beam of half-remembered holidays
No rush of light, no sign of belonging
No joy in building, love in the finishing
Chasing down an anodyne and half-reflected radiance
Shearwater, "Animal Life"

I don't need another friend
When most of them
I can barely keep up with them
Perfectly able to hold my own hand
But I still can't kiss my own neck
Wye Oak, "Civilian"