I would be in a peaceful dream, and on lucky mornings he would enter the dream and we’d bring each other into sunshine, into consciousness, into a kiss.
Most mornings, especially in the last few months, waking up next to him was a surreal kind of annoyance, and became increasingly debilitating to my happiness.
One night I told him that I had been fantasizing about my professor- someone with whom I’d been infatuated for years and had recently seen on campus. I told him this because he asked me why I seemed “distant” during sex, and I was just predicting all of the possible reasons why I could have seemed distant during sex.
He was upset. It wasn’t a jealous kind of anger. It was more of a disheartened, let-down kind of a thing, which felt awful to bare witness to.
Christmas came serendipitously. Things were just getting really intense and then, like a shitty dollar store candy cane, I “snapped.”
His sister and I have the same birthday, October 15, but she is a decade older. I always took this as an omen of our compatibility, even though I know that it’s obnoxiously superstitious.
One day when she and I were preparing phở she said, “I don’t want this to sound racist but… I always thought it was funny that he went towards the whites and I went towards the blacks.”
I said, “That’s not racist.”
My mom would always mess up his nephews’ names, calling them other “black-sounding” names that weren’t their actual names.
We had talked about getting them skateboards for Christmas but fell short of cash.
We always looked forward to visiting the boys. We would take them to play laser tag, or to the park, or we’d just play video games on the carpet.
One time we caught a Gartner snake in the parking lot near their house and watched them be fascinated, relishing in it.
In private, he and I used to quote the little one all the time, laughing about the same expression over and over, finding it equally as funny as the first time we’d heard it.
Both of our families lived ten hours away, next to the Detroit River.
When we left to go to the airport, everything went to shit.
“Where’s the itinerary?”
“We don’t need it.”
“We need it for the plane tickets, where did you put it?”
“We don’t need it.”
We had just finished arguing about the proper way to package a case of whiskey, and then it was the plane tickets.
I always felt stifled by him, like I was always being doubted, or kept under surveillance.
To him, I was impractical, absent-minded, and unaffectionate.
To me, he was hot-tempered, directionless, and over-possessive.
We hurried to the metro station and then, hearing the train coming in, we hurried to get fare fast enough.
We ran down the steps together and then I bolted into the train. When I looked behind me I saw that the door had closed, and on the other side of the glass was his somber, quietly enraged face, glaring at me as the train pulled away. (Part of my brain was definitely laughing.)
Sometimes I wonder if, subconsciously, I did this on purpose. Like as a physical response to him doubting me. Maybe I subconsciously/purposely, ran faster than him in order to flaunt competence or something.
We met up at the next metro station and tried again.
“How did you not realize I wasn’t behind you,” he said, more as a statement than a question.
“I am so sorry.”
“You really just don’t fucking think about me, do you?”
“I am so sorry. That was crazy.”
At the airport we still had some time left before the departure and I knew he hadn’t eaten anything all day, so I bought him a bagel, offering it to him like a juvenile peace treaty. By that point we’d already started arguing about something else, indirectly related to the metro scene. He just ignored me. I think he even left the bagel on the chair, untouched.
After arriving at the airport in Toronto, the flight to Windsor got cancelled due to ice. We had to spend the night in a hotel. For a compatible couple this might have been a pleasant deviation, but for us it was absolute hell.
The customer representative asked us if we wanted one bed or two. I scoffed cynically, and he answered “one.”
The creepy airport hotel in the middle of the parking lot. Those plastic blinds.
We argued about everything, for hours.
He felt like I was abandoning him.
The whole time I remember just wanting it to be over, wanting to blackout and regain consciousness after it was over.
He said, “I’ll leave you right now and you can figure out what to do with all this booze.”
Between the two of us we were carrying a dozen bottles of whisky.
“If you feel good about yourself doing that, then fine, go ahead.”
After hours of arguing and not sleeping, we ended up somehow mending the situation and having sex.
Maybe I was actually worried about transporting the liquor… No. I think I was so bored and aggravated by our lack of progression that I decisively disassociated, and let a temporary compromise evolve out of his own feelings, secretly scheming to break free as soon as we weren’t physically stranded together.
The next day, after we got to Windsor, I went to my parent’s house and I think he went to his sister’s. We met up at midnight, downtown, with a group of mutual friends. We drank together and actually ended up having fun (I think?) although I did drink a lot.
In bed, coming out of a dream, waking up next to him, the fresh memories of our nightmarish trip, and the yearning to detach myself completely.
He looked at me from across the queen-sized mattress in my old childhood bedroom.
“We’re okay now, right?” he said.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “It honestly doesn’t feel like we are.”
When we left the house in Montreal, the information that I was going away, away from our dwelling, to see friends and family, must have catalyzed something menacingly passive-aggressive within me, something that was eager to taste the air.
We cried together, afraid, and on the frontier of an enormous loss.
My mother came in the room, realized what was going on, cried too, and gave him a hug. Then she said she felt “awkward,” and left. (lol).
I still feel the same. I like talking about humans as objects, I don’t want to be constrained to one human being, verbal commitments don’t make sense to me, not to say that I don’t value monogamy, or pair-bonding, but I really feel disenchanted by the human rituals surrounding them, especially the time-spent and ceremony. I feel paralyzed in repulsion.
By some awful frame of logic, I agreed to go to his sister’s house the next day, on the 25th. His mother was there, devastated about us.
She and I spoke privately in her daughter’s room. She mostly just cried while I told her that I still cared for her son but needed to be alone. I think she was worried that he’d acted belligerently or disrespectful towards me, but I assured her that he was of dignified character, and reiterated that I wished him the best.
He became very resentful that day- the word “venomous,” comes to mind – which is completely understandable/a totally normal reaction to have.
Before I left his sister’s house, the family presented me with gifts. I didn’t want to open them but they kept insisting, and I didn’t know what would be the least insulting thing to do.
The most memorable image I have of the whole holiday: opening presents on the floor, trying not to cry in front of the kids, the older one seeming a bit estranged and stand-offish, host to the quiet conflict, he was always so smart for his age, and the little one, uncharacteristically quiet, his sweet face parallel next to mine, as I knelt down, sitting on my heels.
There were four packages to go through, and opening them felt like an eternity, trapped inside my own body, everything blurred because of the tears.
Watercolor paints, watercolor paper, paintbrushes, pajamas.
Things I like to do alone…
I could feel him standing behind me, seething.
I don’t even remember if he and I had prepared to exchange gifts that year. Probably not- we had nothing. There was nothing in the bank, nothing in the fridge, the nightstand, the inclination towards sentimentality, the feeling of being relegated to each other, the idealized validation of our companionship, the concept of social monogamy, the order of tradition, the will to play house, like a dare.