November saw my girlfriend getting a job at a children's clothing store in Kerrisdale, just in time for the holidays. I would often meet her after work and we would head back to one of our places for the night. I had four days off the last weekend of the month. Vancouver was covered in deep fog. I spent Wednesday into Thursday at her house and then, we went to see a Harry Potter film at the Dolphin Cinema in North Burnaby that afternoon. I had begun to come down with a fever and chills. By evening, I prepared to go home, and my girlfriend to her NA meeting. I suddenly became very anxious about going home to my apartment; I had usually felt some sadness when it came time to go, but this time it was fear. My response was, unfortunately, to become irritable. My girlfriend was obviously hurt by it. I apologized and it seemed to blow over. I spent that night at home recuperating; I took a hot bath with a healing essential old and then, dried and clothed for bed, I wrapped my self up tight and sweat out my flu all night. By the next morning, I had some energy back, but had developed a cough and stuffy nose. I was well enough on Sunday to put up my Christmas tree.
I was off for two weeks at Christmas and spent nearly a week at my girlfriend's house, the whole place decorated with rustic looking ornaments and a real tree. We all went out shopping for food for Christmas dinner. I had decided to make a vegetarian tourtiere. There would also be a turkey, a ham from a Czech deli near the house and pumpkin pie. Come Christmas day, we were all set. My girlfriend and I had bought each other a bundle of gifts. I had also bought something for her mother and sister and her boyfriend. We had sent something to Montreal to my father and stepmother (my father was turning sixty, he had just retired earlier that year) and they had sent something for us. Even the cat got gifts. It was such a warm, cozy Christmas that it brought tears to my eyes. It had been so long since I had felt at home.
The next week or so I spent back at my place and hanging out with some of my bi friends exchanging fun, dollar store novelty gifts. But, New Year's Eve I was back at my girlfriend's house; we went out to an NA New Year's Eve party in Queensborough. There was a buffet dinner followed by a dance. We got back at around 2:00 am and quietly got into bed. I remember hoping that the New Year would bring us even closer; maybe I would even move in. I could not wait. Snuggling real close we fell quickly asleep.
It was in January of 2006 that I finally decided to act on an idea that had been germinating in my mind for nearly a year and a half. A radio program on UBC's radio station. Once upon a time, in another life, I had hosted a literary program on CKUT Radio McGill in Montreal. But, this time, I wanted to do a music program. At one point, I had entertained the idea of doing a vintage reggae show, but I had discovered that, between the three main alternative stations in Greater Vancouver (CITR, CJSF at SFU and CFRO Co-op Radio in the Downtown Eastside), there was already enough reggae programming. Another kind of music, the kind that I had heard since I was a small child around the house, the kind that I always heard inside whenever I fell in love, had a loss or felt very happy, was soul music. 60s and early 70s soul music. My girlfriend and I both loved it and I had begun to play it more and more. I felt deeply that I wanted to share it with others. As one of my New Year's resolutions, I signed up for training at CITR. I had once, while a graduate student, done the same, but had been too busy to follow up on it. This time, with so many of my other creative ideas gone, I wanted to give this a fair shake. And my girlfriend was right there with me, making sure I followed through with my commitment. I owe my eventual show to her.
The first training session, in late January, was in using the studio's DJ equipment, at that time being upgraded. The second, in February, was in production, learning how to make public service announcements and show promos. The last session, an explanation of the station's policies and practices took place much later. I had almost given up by the time it rolled around, but my girlfriend encouraged my to keep at it.
In the meantime, I pushed her to finish her college credits and finish her courses. When she was laid off from her store job in January, I encouraged her to finish her assignments and helped her gather her sources and organize her notes. I also encourage her to get singing lessons. A great voice like she had needed to be nurtured. And she seemed so happy when she was singing. I wanted us to both to have our own pursuits and activities, that way there would be more to bring back to the relationship. I would soon find out that it was easier said than done.
I went over to my girlfriend's house one rainy, windy winter morning (one of my days off from work) and she answered the door crying. She had been having PTSD symptoms and was needing to be held. I held her very tightly, told her that I loved her. I felt incredibly helpless, but was there for her as much I could be. I could be very difficult. One acting out episode involved her seducing me when I was sick, coughing and with a temperature. Reminding her that I was sick and did not have the energy for making love only made her angry and suspicious. We did later that day, but I felt nothing but guilt. Mistakenly, I tried to bury it.
I had been seeing a therapist (recommended to me by a colleague) regularly for months by this point. His office was a few blocks from my house. My girlfriend did not want to join these sessions and could not for financial reasons. I was on my own, to do counselling work. I worked on my own issues of self-worth, loneliness (even in a relationship) and helplessness with my girlfriend's issues. January was a hard month, mood wise, for me. I became depressed, although not enough to require medication. By February, my mood had lifted somewhat. I began to keep a journal in which I recorded my feelings about myself and about my girlfriend and the love, sadness and tenderness I felt for her. Unlike later on, at that point, I could only feel the soft emotions for her.
Not long before Valentine's Day, I agreed to dress as "Miss Penny" for her. The whole drag experience had long ago lost its luster for me, but I did it to show her that side of myself. She liked how I was dressed, but it became clear to me that she saw my self-presentation as a fetish. I did not. I had no interest in wearing women's clothes for a thrill, I wore them because they felt like me. Deep down, I knew that she feared that.
During the Winter Olympics in Torino, I spent a few days at my girlfriend's house developing my radio show's concept. As it would be on station which featured indie music, it would have to be an indie soul music program. It would include all of the tiny, obscure soul labels of the late 50s to early 70s, getting away from the same well-known hits that oldies stations played. I thought that it had a lot of potential. I had begun taking a liking to 50s music, early rhythm and blues as well. My music buying increased dramatically. But, I knew that it was not just for me. I wanted to share this with the world.
When I finally did my last training session in March 2006, I mentioned my idea to the music director who loved it. I began selecting music for a demo recording which I would then submit to the station executives for review. I could hardly wait to get started. That would not happen until the summer.
One evening in late March, not long after we celebrated our first year together over dinner at the Afghan Horseman restaurant, I got a call from my girlfriend. She said that she had been having a conversation with her mother about their living arrangement which had been showing some signs of strain over the previous month or so. She asked me if I wanted to move in. I had to pause to make sure that I had actually heard what I thought I had heard. When it finally sunk in, I said yes, jubilant. I handed in my notice to my building manager later that week. I had lived in that apartment on the West Side for seven years, and alone for longer. Now I was moving in with the woman I loved. I could hardly contain my joy.
To be continued ...