We are born free spirits. Our grade seven teacher tries to smash it out of us with rules and schedules, but it never fully works. Our mother tries to teach us how to behave, and we laugh at this while shaking out our hair in the wind. We would rather sing down the hallway or forget our chores again than listen to their words.
Then a boy comes along, one that we want to spend all our time with, one that we want to give ourselves to. It’s always the wrong boy to start off with. He doesn’t float on the wind like we do. But we love people, we love boys, we love kissing. So we harness ourselves, wild horses learning the saddle. We give up our solitary evening walks, our dancing by firelight, our laughter at inappropriate jokes in exchange for his politics and taste in leather shoes. And, constrained but momentarily content, we fall in love.
It always ends. The break-up is chaos, a fallen bird spinning towards the ground. And rediscovering our life again takes time, because he has told us that he thinks being a free spirit is an excuse to be irresponsible. We listened to his need to find a career, invest in real estate, start an RRSP. Finding the poetry in our soul after being ripped apart by his numbness takes time. We, the life-filled ones are strong, however. We were born a breed who runs through fields, who paints watercolours by porch light, who scribbles poetry down on napkins even though the waiter’s brought the bill.
So we fight to become the wild creatures we were. Alone again, we buy patterned pants for a discounted price. We take bubble baths every night and visit a spiritual director. We laugh in the face of normalcy, move in with a family of five, find a new job, write rants in our Moleskins and cancel all our future plans. Because fully living in the present has become more important.
But we’re not all-powerful. Broken from fighting, we crawl home to our childhood bedrooms. We decide to settle. We meet up with similarly brokenhearted high school friends that we haven’t seen in four months. But we decide on a Thursday to go away for a girls’ weekend together. We stay up too late, wake up too early, and hop on a ferry to Vancouver Island in search of peace. The city opens itself to us, invites us to explore inside its labyrinth. And on the journey, we find new ways to be single.
1. We see arrival as a question. When we were in love, it pulled at us. We slept away from home a few nights now and then, but each of us was called back by the scent, the taste, the sound of our boyfriends. Now we are both single, we arrive in Victoria and our arrival is not defined by a departure date. We may leave when we want. Or we may stay here forever.
2. We realize schedules are best when thrown into clearly-marked garbage bins. Forgot my identification? We’ll buy rum and drink on the beach. Bus is running late? We’ll just sit on a bench and love the sun.
3. We find that the grass on Parliament Hill is green enough to absorb all our failed relationships. It is warm from the sun, and it teases out of us the stories of the loves turned sour that bring us together. It’s through talking about our loves that we begin to reconcile ourselves to what we thought would have been in our lives by now but isn’t.
4. We embrace the friendliness of foreign travellers. The Romanian boys at our hostel pull us in, and we explore their culture with them, and when we kiss them it means nothing but trying new things, like a new chardonnay or going to Vienna. We see them the next morning, and breakfast conversations are groggy but friendly.
5. We discover that crossing an unfriendly bridge leads us to the best place to spend both day and night. The rocky cliff we find ourselves at lends itself to us like an old friend. Fancy restaurants and family-friendly beaches do not call to us. Instead we mix rum and coke and reminisce next to weed smokers and all assortments of eccentricity.
6. We allow the beds at our Yates Street hostel to be enough to cure our hangovers. The woman across from our bunk snores. The lady a few bunks down natters incessantly about movies we should watch. The sun rises too early and the city street outside our window are filled with noisy traffic. It doesn’t matter. We embrace the chaos, we find respite in the chaos.
7. We fail to apply sunscreen. We question whether our plans will leave us in full sun long enough to be burnt, and then we discuss whether the chemicals in the lotion will be worse for our bodies than the sun’s rays. After coming to no conclusion about whether production of sunscreen is harmful to animals, communities in developing countries, or is the cause of overflowing landfills, we realize that we are already burnt and decide to accept our redness.
8. We are each other’s best friends. In the shade of the Empress Hotel, we forget sex in favour of laughter, and replace our dreams of permanence and wedding favors with sunshine and heart-to-hearts. We discover the time and place for friendship, and we get excited about reading trashy magazines together on the ride back. We check out the boys at the bus stop, of course, but we’re not concerned with landing on someone. We’re only excited to explore together and to live in freedom again.