Do you ever have a moment when you step outside yourself, take a sip from an existential glass of wine and say, “how did I get here?” I did last Friday night when it occurred to me that my relationship was over.
This summer got off to such a fabulous start! I met a man for the first time in five years. He was sweet, kind and gentle. I met him for drinks after he left his number for me at the restaurant and the two of us hit it off right away. He lived two blocks away from me, worked full-time at a health foods store, and looked like a Calvin Klein model without any clothes on.
The beginning of our relationship marked the start of a new life for me. The day after our first date, I clocked in as a manager for the first time at the restaurant. In the space of 24 hours, my entire existence changed. My work week doubled from 25 hours to 50. My best friendships with servers, built up over several glasses of wine and maintained over a thousand games of cards, took a fatal blow.
By the end of June I had moved into a brand new apartment downtown. Packing all my belongings in the back of a Uhaul truck I changed my address to Vancouver’s prized West End. 400 Square Feet at a bargain $3.50 per foot, I moved on to the 12th floor of a brand new apartment building, with a granite marble top counter and a bachelor view of the ocean and mountains.
In August, I barely recognized myself. I had a new-found confidence that I hadn’t experienced since I came out. Working nine day stretches averaging eleven hours a day, I convinced myself that I was Michael Ross in Suits. I walked to work everyday with a dress shirt, tie and my laptop strung around my left shoulder. I prided myself in working hard, and crossed my fingers every night that I’d one day see the results of my labour.
In September, I had a revelation. It was my first day off in ages and it was approximately 10:05am when it occurred to me I had absolutely nothing to do with myself. I hadn’t seen Sebastian in weeks because our schedules could never quite match (we went eight straight weeks without sharing one mutual day off). My social life did not fare much better. Whatever friends I did have remaining I managed to see less than him. I walked to the water with a tall cup of Starbucks and said to myself, “I have the fabulous job, boyfriend and apartment and I have never been so lonely in my life.”
At the beginning of October, the daytime manager at the restaurant quit and with one phone call, like the season, my entire life changed yet again. I set my alarm for 6:00am the following morning, and began my new position working Monday to Friday. “I barely saw you before, but now I am never going to see you,” said Sebastian over the phone when I told him the news. “I know,” was all I could reply.
Careers are funny that way. The faster you advance in one direction of your life, the faster you fall behind in every other.
The rain was pouring when I took the elevator down to let him in the front door on Friday night. Usually the ride back up was filled with a gigantic hug and a kiss to match. This time I stood on one side of the box and he stood on the other. Inside my apartment he walked straight to look outside my windows. From the tiny specks of flashing lights in West Vancouver to the full bay windows of the skyscraper next door, he loved the urban view.
I took a seat on one side of the couch and he took a seat on the other. I sipped a glass of Australian shiraz like it was a pint of apple cider vinegar. I told him that I rented Sarah Polley’s film “Take this Waltz” and asked him if he wanted to watch it. Ten minutes in to the film I edged closer to him. I knew it was over but I didn’t want it to be. Thirty minutes and I had managed to wrap myself in his arms. Starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen, the Canadian film told the story of a relationship that had run its course, and I was living it.
By the end of the film, I had finished half my glass of red wine and was in as much denial as a redhead can be. I crawled in to bed with a simple intention, “let’s forget about talking, let’s just go to sleep like we always do.” When he didn’t follow, I knew it was time to face the music. I turned on my iPod which was a major mistake. Set to Shuffle Mode, every song magically turned in to Adele. For Fuck’s Sake, I thought, I couldn’t have scored this scene better.
“What do you think?” he kept asking me. “I think I want to fight to save this relationship,” I kept replying. When it was clear he was ready to raise the white flag I had no choice but to do the same. Our love was still alive but our relationship had flat-lined. D-N-R. You can’t shock a person back to life if they don’t want to wake up. “Well if that’s it,” I said out loud, “then I guess that’s it. If you’re not coming to bed with me then you might as well go.” It was 2:00am. I watched him put on his shoes and exit through the door. No kiss, no hug, no goodbye.
Standing inside my empty apartment, I stepped outside myself, took an existential sip of wine, and asked, “how did I get here?”
I turned the light on in the washroom. I looked at myself in the mirror, again no recognition. When it was clear he was not coming back I threw his toothbrush out in the garbage. After my first major relationship ended, I spent so many days of my life heartbroken I vowed I would never do it again. This time I am taking a page from Eckhart Tolle instead of Bridget Jones. No more cigarettes, just deep breaths.
I am grateful for the time Sebastian and I spent together: every smile, every laugh, every argument. Now it is my job to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. No one said this year was going to be easy. I am stronger for it.