Heavy purple-grey clouds skulked along the horizon; autumn was moving in. Warm days chased out by cold nights. Sweaters and text books were back in style and the Maritimes were bracing for another unprecedented storm—a vague series of satellite images looming over the Atlantic as reporters stressed the necessity of flashlights, bottled water, and extreme caution.
There's no reminder like nature to teach us of fragility. We shore ourselves up with comfort and logic, but one storm is all it takes. One afternoon. One accident. One step.
You'd recently told me that my romanticism was unparalleled. Impressive, you'd said. It was a compliment, and I took it. Then I thought of a storm--forceful and insistent, bearing down and falling apart at your shores--and I realized it was just one more thing you didn't trust about me.
You were about to meet someone in France who was taking you to Spain. It's nothing, you said. It's no big deal. I wanted to be someone who could take comfort in your nonchalance. You were no more there than here. I didn't know where it was, and I wanted to find it. In a look you'd give me when you thought I couldn't see, or in the way you'd reach for my hand—something so natural you couldn't help it. I thought of it as a decision, a choice you could make but the heart does not deliberate.It's s a lock for which everything else is a key. There is nothing to measure, nothing to argue. There are no words that explain how or why. There is only the truth. Yes or no. So when you said, Bad timing, what you meant was, No.
On Monday morning, I stood in Union Station and watched buses pull away. Heart like a fist. Engines gasping. Away from me. I want to see you, you said on the phone. People say all kinds of things.
In my bag I had a jar of peaches I'd canned myself and brought for you and I could feel it pressing into my side. Buses pulled away. I looked at my watch. I flew the better half of a continent to see you one more time and suddenly I didn't know what I was doing there. At a stop light I watched as two young men harvested poppy pods in the raised beds outside a towering glass building. One at either end, maybe twenty feet apart, working towards each other with black garbage bags and sweeping arms, their heads turning periodically towards each others gestures. Sunlight skidded off windshields and cut around glass corners and leaves blundered through pedestrian obstacles.
I wasn't meeting you in Paris, and we weren't going to Spain.
I had a jar of brandy peaches and a broken heart.
Some people are prone to losing. Keys, wallets, jewellery, passports disappear. Some people lose time. Some, their way; some lose money, memory, cats, guitar picks, pens, socks, remote controls, cars in parking lots. Some loss is incidental. Accidental. Stolen. Some loss is the same loss and you will lose it over and over for years of your life. That which we give ourselves to gathers its own momentum.
On Wednesday I went to Kensington Market with a friend. We drank coffee and smoked our way through overcast skies and quiet crowds. A man in rubber boots and cargo shorts walked into the street strumming a guitar and as a young woman cycled towards him he called to her, Hello there. Hi. Wow. You're like Laverne and Shirley all in one, and she cruised past us smiling, all wavy elegance and long bicycle strides, his gentle notes following after her. Beautiful, he said. Just beautiful.
You told me once that I was easy to please, but I am just as dissatisfied as the rest of us. Riddled with insatiable desire--what to do, where to be, how to occupy my hands. If you had been there I would have wrapped myself around you, kissed your neck with open lips, and pulled you into something we both wanted, but not each other.
While you were booking your flight, I studied a world map on the wall of the Flight Center. I shifted my weight from foot to foot. Studied random distances. Lima, Peru to Dakar, Senigal: 7206 km; London to Manchester: 263 km; Tokyo to Trinidad: 14 412 km; Vancouver to Paris: 7922 km. Roughly. You know. Airport to airport.
I went outside and stood in the shade listening to waves of traffic break over intersections. Also a jackhammer. A car alarm. And a rumpled young woman to my right trying to light a cigarette in the wind. I walked back inside and put my hand on your back. You asked if I was ok and pointed at a chair beside you. You looked into my eyes just long enough for me not to sit.
When you left for the airport, I sat on the curb exactly where I'd been when you were still beside me, heart like a fist, squinting into the sunset orange edges of a hundred year old building full of so many things I didn't know. Lifetimes. Generations. Births and bicycle rides, wading pools and snow days, graduations, drunken fights, new cars, Christmas lights, marriages, lay-offs, broken toys, dog piss and garden gates.
No one can take from us the lives we've lived, not even time. You will always have touched my face with your finger tips before kissing me goodbye, and I will always have held your hand a moment too long.
It will always be worth it.