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It’ll End in Tears

September 25, 2009

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A handful of Saturdays ago, I shopped for stockings and champagne, slipped into a short dress, then watched a friend promote her boyfriend to husband. She was the first to officially marry, despite the fact that most of us are closer to forty than thirty, and most of us have been settled with partners for years. It was a lovely affair, just fancy enough to feel formal, and laidback enough to feel right.

Later that night, I cabbed across town to meet the man I’d spent the summer slowly falling for. My sequins and high heels looked absurd in his kitchen, and I joked about the highly engineered underwear demanded by my gown. He stroked my leg and declared thatĀ  if he weren’t stuck with the sofa while a house-guest slept upstairs, “this is the part where I’d invite you to stay.” He kissed me sweetly and I headed home, confident we were inching toward something, but unsure how to call it by name.

And then, in a rush of days, things were over.

I pretended he wasn’t worth my tears, that he was welcome to move on, freeing my heart for someone cuter, sweeter, better. But, so far I have failed to convince myself that I don’t give a fuck. Something nags at my heart. Not just something…lots of things. Most of them have nothing to do with him.

All summer, the weather was grim and violent–storms felt like the end of the world, clouds gathered in deep frowns, winds took down strong, chunky trees. One night, we arranged a date at my house: dinner on the balcony and croquet in the yard. Instead, the sky turned purple and branches were torn sideways, and we shifted our plans indoors. He wrapped me in his arms and we shouted over thunder. Pulling me outside, he kissed me until the rain came, holding me so tightly I could feel our hearts competing against my chest, his beating on one side of my bones, mine tucked within.

He teased me–often–about my so-called perfection, my appearance, my skills, my smarts, my kitten, my efficiency, my composure, the inflection I place on the “a” sound in words like “family”, the way I am able to accomplish so many things, the fact that I am not just a sayer, I am a doer. He told me these things make me intimidating, claimed he teased me to take the edge off his fear. And so, I deferred to his insistence that we take things slow instead of staking little red flags through each of his issues. In tandem with the teasing, he called me sweet and amazing, often telephoned simply to say hello, dropped in when passing by, inched through steps like meeting friends, seeing each other’s homes, dates that felt official and ones that felt like daily living. Dates where we freshened up and put on nice clothes and sat at tables; dates where we still smelled like the day and sat cross-legged on the floor before stretching out to snuggle in the middle of the living room rug.

He told me nothing that gave away his reservations, and I was blind-sided when he told me I was missing the one thing that would make him want me in his life. He couldn’t name it, or really articulate anything about it, and yet, this missing thing was an eclipse. Claimed he’d known since the first time we hung out that the thing wasn’t there, but hoped maybe, if he tried long and hard and with sufficient persistence, the thing might arrive late on the scene. But, as the days grew shorter and the temperature dropped, he was forced to admit defeat. It was back-to-school season, and time to give up on fizzling summer affairs.

And so, I packed up my heart and turned my attention to someone else’s quest for love. Like a bookend to my summer dating season, a second girlfriend’s wedding loomed, and I was in charge of the cake. Shopping for ingredients and just the right pans, I lugged a sack of envy from place to place, along with pounds of butter and flour and sugar for the frosting. I cried reading the recipe, I cried greasing the pans, I cried the morning of the wedding while I carefully stowed each layer in boxes and waited for my friend A. to arrive. I got my shit together and didn’t shed a single tear from 2 pm when we left the city and headed north, till shortly after 9 pm when the cake was served. Then, I fell apart, I hope with enough grace that no one minded, hugging the bride–one of my oldest, dearest friends–and calling her by the nickname we’ve shared for eighteen years. In that moment, I was purely happy for her, and let go of the self-absorption that had plagued me for days. It, and the tears, returned in due course, but for a moment, I felt light, and yet swaddled in fog.

And now, in the wake of all that frosting, all those tears, the misread romance that devoured my summer, I am formulating a plan. Like the quarter flipped in Cormack McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, my present has been sent through time, traveling through seasons and schools and provinces and ages and outfits and haircuts and loves and heartbreaks and affairs and bad news and good news and several careers. And here it is, giving me a one-two, to-and-fro slap from cheek to cheek. Smarten up! my present is telling me, forget about these men, these wastes of time, these distractions and deviations from the thing you need to do next. Get it together, sister, and stop being so damn delicate! Kick yourself in the pants and get on with getting on.

And so, the plan:

Paris.

Paris, France, not Paris, Ontario, I mean. Pastry and baking arts, a certificate, a ridiculous white-and-checkered uniform, a two-year programme. A coveted work permit, a map and a guidebook, a fucking expensive apartment, a city of strangers. A once-learned and since-forgotten language I will need to tackle again. A two-year plan, a massive debt, but one that’s a fraction of a mortgage in my current city or roughly the price of a good car. A daunting challenge, but the right thing to do. It may end in tears, but hell, I’ve spent most of September crying already. At least Paris will be a chance of scenery, and I can make reference to mes larmes instead of washing my cheeks in plain old tears.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 25, 2009 4:47 pm

    Um, well… good for you! Surprises from faraway friends in blogular form never cease.

    It might be easier for me to visit you there anyway!

  2. September 26, 2009 10:56 am

    I feel like the fact that you typed “chance of scenery” is significant somehow. Paris offers more than a change but a chance? I have no idea. but, there you go.
    So I wonder how my testimonial for you will change when you are in Paris (soon?). Here’s what I have so far (I did a little thing where I described the people I like to keep up with on the internet):
    Amanda/
    She writes like wine.
    She retreats on Toronto Island and drinks lattes on the beach.
    She has hangovers and perfects her baking of fruit pie.
    She has a sharp wit and a bicycle.

  3. Adrienne permalink
    September 26, 2009 5:52 pm

    Really? Paris for pastry school? Fantastic! This is fantastic!

  4. Julie permalink
    September 27, 2009 1:57 am

    Holy shit: France.
    YES!! I’ll miss you terribly, but I’m rather sure that Paris is never, ever a wrong move.
    Can’t wait to hear the plan in detail in person!

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