You probably see it coming. I really, really should have.
We would ditch our significant others to spend time with each other. Drive around for hours and talk and talk. When I broke up with someone, Todd was the first person I would call. The last person on my mind at night. We ate steak dinners with his friends, who called themselves Nasty Squad, which is too stupid for words. Todd was the leader of the pack, because he had been the worst criminal. That’s how stupid. I was his de facto girlfriend, even if there was actually another girl with that title at the table. Nasty deferred to me before her. Pretty weird.
Anyhow, Todd and I had this thing that we’d do. We’d break into golf courses at night and drive on the paths. The CRX was so small we didn’t actually do any damage. We broke into almost every golf course in Vancouver, and had to break out of at least one of them, too.
We were at a golf course, watching the halogen lights of Richmond over the Fraser River, when we finally kissed each other. It was the greatest day ever. We were going to be so happy together! Nasty hailed it with great celebrations. I was ecstatic. At last, Happily Ever After was going to happen to me!
His parents regarded me with tearful gratitude. I was almost suctioned into the family, I was drawn in so fast. And Todd and I were very happy. That’s what killed me. We really were.
“Remember when we went into that tux shop and the guy thought we were getting married?” I asked one day, as we were reflecting on how much more mature we were than when we dated the first time.
“Remember how I wished we were?” he answered.
But things couldn’t be just so. There was the insecurity. It just didn’t go away. Ever. It started with new, younger friends, friends who idolized him. Then he started going to raves. I was never going to be cool enough for them. He’d ditch me at home after we saw an early movie, because I didn’t want to go dancing. He would drag me to parties where I felt old and out of place because everyone else was about twenty, and I was an ancient twenty-four.
I started losing weight. I thought that maybe if I lost another five pounds and wore lipstick, he would pay attention, it would be perfect again. Maybe if I took more of an interest in what he was doing. Maybe if I dressed a little younger, maybe sluttier. I was in a state, I can say. The name of that state is abject misery.
I went to a rave once, with him and busty little Lynsie or whatever her name was. In Chilliwack. In the pouring rain. It was appalling. I left, and had to brake on the darkened road for a duck to walk across the road. The duck, pale in my headlights, looked as lost and frightened as I felt.
I tried to talk to him. I tried and tried and tried. He couldn’t tell me anything that would help. Just that he loved me. And that was ringing hollow. How can you not talk to someone you love? How can you know they are miserable and do nothing about it? Because I told him. I said, “We are drifting apart again. This is happening. I do not feel like a part of your life.” And he’d just look at me in dumb misery, because he wasn’t strong enough to actually man up and break it off. “If I leave,” I said, “It will be because you drove me away.” And those kicked-puppy blue eyes would reproach me.
But the day I called him and he didn’t answer? We had talked about having dinner or something. I went over and the music was so loud, how could he hear? The shower was on. The shower went off. Eventually, he came out of the house smoking a joint and looked at me in blank shock.
I ran at him. “You’re a monster!” I shouted. “You are a complete mockery of everything that made you worthwhile!” He moved towards me. “Don’t touch me! DO NOT TOUCH me!” I cried. “You’re nothing but show. You are no substance at all! You went from everything to fucking nothing!” I got in my car and drove away, crying hysterically. Then I went and sat on Gen’s steps and cried and cried.
Somebody once said you don’t die from heartbreak, you only wish you would. I was pretty sure I was going to die. The sun had gone out. I rambled on and on to my friends: The broken record of my broken heart. I went to school, went to work, got some emergency student counseling. Wrote compulsively in my journal. Waited to drop in my traces. Waited for the cold of the sunless world to seep into my bones until I fell where I was and died.
But I didn’t die. I was weak, but I was alive. Life was hollow, but I was breathing in and out. I didn’t really understand why.
Then one weekend I went to visit Morgan at UVic and I had a great time. And things were going to be okay. I dated much younger men for a while, some of whom were wildly unsuitable.
Somehow, it got to be okay. Not somehow, actually. I worked hard at getting past him. Like I learned from Todd, the secret to getting past any addiction is changing your associations. I changed all my reference points that were previously tied to him. I got the bands in the breakup. I got Rush, Queen, and Zeppelin, and I made new memories for those songs, for those albums. I got the city. No longer was driving about going fast. It was about seeing things my own way in my own time. Most importantly, I got me. I was no longer just a symbol, a kind of walking certificate of his validity as a worthwhile human being. I could be a person with my own valid experiences, even though I had never been a silk-shirted drug lord with a suitcase full of hash. I could suffer, even though I had never kicked heroin. I got to be a person, in my own right.
And who I am? He was never strong enough to keep.