Sunday, 1 April 2012

About Me, Part 50: The Echo

In early February, we had to take our elderly cat to the vet to treat an abscess on his chin. The kitten had been clawing his chin aggressively for sometime. When we brought him home, he needed to wear one of those lampshade-like barriers to keep him from scratching his own stitches. In the meantime, all things considered, we decided to surrender the kitten. The kitten-cat living arrangement had failed. But like our older cat, my fiancee and I were licking our own wounds.

On Valentine`s Day I bought her flowers and she made us heart shaped pizzas. The whole thing was nice, but empty. Then, the following week, exhausted by all the recent stress, I caught the flu. The cough symptom lasted for weeks afterwards. I had lost much of my appetite as well and had begun to lose weight. And no sooner did the flu seem to pass that I would be laid out by it again. By early March, I had begun to get dark circles around my eyes. A few of my co-workers had become concerned.

While off sick from work during the first week of the month, I lay in our bed while in the next room my fiancee typed away on our computer alternating between playing games and sending emails. I felt so light headed that I could start giggling very easily. However, a sign of things to come was when we started to argue over some facial expression I made while gazing at her from bed. Unspoken resentments were starting to surface. I had also become desperate to keep our relationship together.

My first radio show of the month, on Friday night, was International Women`s Day themed. My fiancee said that she would listen. When I got back from the station, around 1:00 am, she was already in bed. I changed and got in next to her and we kissed before I feel asleep. At some point during the night, she suddenly got up. I thought that maybe she was walking in her sleep as she sometimes did. She grabbed her comforter and headed to the living as she also sometimes did. I called after her. She did not answer. Soon afterwards I could hear the faint sound of the television on the other side of the house. She usually came back before dawn. This time, she stayed there all night.

The following morning, my cough had come back and I was weak. My fiancee seemed very upset. She suggested that we see a relationship counsellor, something that we had let fall by the wayside a few times, in particular, the past fall. As we looked through the LGBT business directory, we agreed to each call a few names listed. Then we went out for a walk to a nearby park. Suddenly, we were happy again. I pointed out a frizzy haired child on the playground and said that was how I looked as a toddler and we had a laugh over it. We walked a little further as it began to warm up and found ourselves in another park next to an elementary school. We sat on a bench for a while before going back home.

The evening after that, my fiancee suggested that we go out for dinner. I still felt quite tired from having been ill, but I agree. It took me much longer than normal to get my act together, however, and my fiancee began undressing. ``Forget it!`` she said, frustrated. We decided to go to a cheap restaurant a few blocks away. Dinner, where we tasted it at all, tasted horrible. Everything, even food seemed laden with grief over something dying. When we got home, we began arguing over our relationship. She doubted that I loved her. I insisted that I did. Despite everything, I still did. However, when I said that, I regretted it as it came out sounding like ``I love you anyway``. ``You make it sound like I`m a monster,`` she sobbed. I tried to explain that I did not mean it that way, but it was no use. It had become impossible to communicate. Eventually that evening, we settled down to watch television, cuddling and trying to put the day`s events behind us.

The following, my fiancee told me that she was going to stay with her mother for a few days. ``It`s okay,`` she assured me,``I`m not going away.`` I wanted to believe her.  At work the following day I arranged to meet with my supervisor. The library was having a huge publicity event which involved many of us wearing futuristic costumes. In this costume party type atmosphere, I told my supervisor that I wanted to speak with her. When we got into her office, we sat down and I said, with all the effort that I could muster, ``We cancelled our wedding.`` Of course, there was more to it than that, but I could not get the rest out. I burst into tears. My supervisor consoled me as I explained that I was going to need to take sick time for stress while I tried to get my health back and work with my partner on doing some relationship work. It would be clearer after our first counselling session that Saturday, I explained, but I was sure that I would need at least a few weeks off. I had hundreds of hours of unused sick time. My supervisor spoke to management and they gave approval for me to take a few weeks off as paid sick days. All that I needed to do was let them know when I wanted to start.

I filled in one of my colleagues, who was also one of my landladies, about what was going on. Then, I called my partner from work to let her know that I had gotten approval. We booked our therapy appointment on Saturday. On Thursday, my fiancee came home. That night we made love. It felt mechanical. For the first time, my fiancee avoided eye contact with me afterwards.

On Saturday, we went to a Deli on Commercial Drive for lunch before I walked my fiancee past the organic produce store that she had gotten a job at to her NA meeting. I had walked her to the Saturday meetings many times before, but this time she did not kiss me before going in, avoiding it instead. Later that afternoon, we met up at home and caught a taxi down to Yaletown where our therapist`s office was located.

When got up to the right floor in the building, a small man met us at the elevator, introduced himself, shook our hands and brought us into his office. For the next hour, my fiancee and I talked about ourselves. My fiancee said that she thought that we had gotten together too soon after meeting. She said that our politics was incompatible. I just wanted to find some way of resolving some of our communication issues. I thought that if we could not stay together, we could, at least, part on good terms and develop a deeper friendship.

The session as a whole went fine. I was satisfied with the therapist and thought that my partner and I could get a lot from working with him. We decide that we would each see him individually and then, together. I could tell that money was going to be a problem, but working on this would be a priority. With a few weeks off, we could really concentrate on each other. What I had attended the previous October when I was on vacation. I actually began to look forward to it. On the way home, we had a bite to eat at a French bistro nearby and then, headed home. On the way, I caught myself gazing at my partner, suddenly seeing a soft beauty that I had not noticed for sometime. I felt myself rekindle. I was not sure she was experiencing the same thing.

That night, we had already decided, we were going to spend doing own thing with our own friends. My partner went to an NA dance and I had a few of my bi friends over for a music documentary night; I had rented a few DVDs from a nearby rental store and had also added my Ken Burns Jazz series. My partner stayed for the first part of it and then, left for the dance. My friends and I spent the next few hours watching a few of the docs before they left. When partner got back, I was already in bed.

The following day, we returned the DVDs, and began to argue about some of the racial issues that Jazz documentary covered. Then, we went for coffee nearby before going to a car wash on the west side, not far from where I once lived. After the car was washed, we drove back home. On Monday, the day after, I was already off work as it was scheduled as a Tuesday to Saturday week for me. I used the opportunity to call in and book two weeks sick time, following up with an email. I, then, went to nap on the living room futon. My partner came back later in the afternoon after her job.

The next morning, on the first day of my stress leave, we brought the cat to the vet to have his teeth cleaned. We needed to leave him there for the day. We took the bus back to our neighbourhood and stopped off at the Safeway for a couple things. It was a hazy, sunny, damp day. At home, the garden had been covered by leaves and branches from various wind and rain storms over the winter. It would be spring in a few days and I knew that I would be getting back to gardening again soon. I looked forward to it. It could be one more thing that my partner and I could do that was soothing and healthy for both of us. After looking over the garden area for a while, we went inside and boiled some tea.

We went into the bedroom and my partner sat up on the bed, her back against the headboard. I turned around towards and, feeling very tender towards her, I made to give her a hug and kiss. She held me away from her. She patted the bed next to her. ``I think we should talk,`` she said. When I sat next to her, she began,``Sweetie ... `` It was the same way she had begun other similar conversations. She said that she did not think that we were going to work out and, to my shock, handed me back the diamond ring. It was truly over. I said that we had just begun to do therapy, that we needed a chance. She would not hear of it. It was over. And this time, she said, it was temporary, a few days and then, she would come back, or a bad patch, where she needed some space. It was over. Period.

Stunned, I called my father to tell him. He said that he was very sorry to hear it. He called back a few minutes later and my ex answered. She handed the phone to me. I explained a little more about the situation and agreed to talk to them later. The rest of the afternoon was a blur as the hours crawled onward. My ex met with one of her NA friends for coffee down the street while I sat in numb shock on the futon. On occasion, I would call friends, long-distance and local, space no longer mattered. Two of my bi friends, one of whom, having moved east the previous year, was flying through town that week, said that they would be by to see me that evening. The landladies were out for the day.

My ex came back later in the afternoon. Her mother came by after work and took up to the vet to get our cat who was dazed on medication. My ex had, at some point, made dinner. Other than the day that my mother died, this was the most stunned, disoriented and out of time moment I had ever had. I agreed to look after the cat for a few days while my ex went to stay with her mother again. We agreed that she would move out as I knew the landladies as friends.

That evening, my friends arrived and I made tea for us while I tried to keep mind from fading. We sat on a bench outside the entrance to my suite. After dark, my landladies pulled up in the driveway. I went up to them and told them what happened, bursting into tears again. One of them did also, asking if I needed a hug, saying, ``You know that we`re there for you.`` I nodded. I showed them that my friends were over. I clung to them while the were there and when they left for home, I felt the sting of, suddenly, being in my home alone. Again. Naturally.


That Friday`s episode of Shake a Tail Feather was singularly the most difficult that I have ever hosted. The show that my ex had originally pushed me to do, lovingly, and wanting me to go for what I wanted in life, to be happy creating. The show of which I dedicated the first episode to my ex not long after we were engaged. The show that she had listened to many times and called in every so often. The show that she occasionally came in with me to watch me host. I was now going to do it and then, come home at 1:00 am to no one. The realization cut through my heart.

Just before I left for the station, my ex came by to get her cat, now recovered some what. I had kept him with me for a few days while he stretched out next to me on the futon as his anesthetic wore off. he also clung to me, sensing that his domestic peace was shattering. And now, he was packed up to go. In a way, it was just as well, having him with me would have been too much of a reminder. After my ex left with the cat. I left for my show.

My show was a blur. I remember playing some new soul releases followed by a spotlight on boogaloo (60s Latin soul). Suddenly, it was over. I had managed. I went home and cried myself to sleep.

The next day, I went to the SPCA to look for a new cat. After spending my time looking around, I found one, a tuxedo cat, about five and a half years that had been brought down from Prince George. He looked adorable, purring as I went by. It was Easter weekend and the rabbits and cats were both being bought up. I went back the following day with one of my landladies to get the new cat. After getting some food and supplies, we got him home and I let him out. Automatically, my home began to feel a touch a warmer. I welcomed him with open arms.

That evening, I had Easter dinner upstairs, bringing a sparkling beverage with me. Still reeling, I talked a bit about what had happened and felt better for having shared. Once I got to bed that tight, my new cat curled up next to me and went to sleep. We were both orphaned.


My ex did call a few times, ostensibly to arrange to come by to pick up more things, but it always turned into blaming me for various things and then, dropping hints about moving in together again. Part of me wanted everything to fix itself, but I also dreaded the stress. I had run out of energy. There had not been equal commitment on both sides and I was not about to keep a relationship afloat by myself. The money burdens had been too much. Two other times, I had taken the bite, but not this time. I continued to see the therapist on my own instead of as a couples therapist.

The Sunday after Easter, a bi friend and I went to a meditation workshop at the G F Strong Rehabilitation Centre on Oak Street. During a walking meditation break outdoors on that cold, sunny day, I managed to walk around the nearby park and down the street, through a residential area past the BC Women`s and Children`s Hospital grounds. When I got home after the workshop, my ex came over to get a few more things and hinted that she was irritated that I had not called her.

We had the same conversation repeatedly over the next few. In the meantime, I tried to keep myself busy. I went to shows at the Railway Club, to the annual Record Swap at the Croatian Cultural Center and met with my bi friend from the meditation workshop for a weekly vegetarian buffet in Kitsilano after Queer FM, her radio program at CITR. Those dinners kept my sanity together for some time to come.

The second weekend of April I began to garden. My ex and her mother came by to get the rest of her things that were not furniture. The bed was already gone and I slept regularly on the futon keeping the bedroom door shut as I could not bear to see the room at all. The same Sunday, I went to London Drugs to buy myself a gift: a Crosley-like retro radio with a turntable, CD player and cassette player. I put it on top of the antique larder that I had bought from one of my landladies.

The next day, I started back at work, doing the afternoon and evening shift. It was a nice warm morning as I moved some of my kitchen and dining room furniture around, moving the two-piece hutch into the kitchen and the larder with the radio on top into the dining room. When I got back to work, I was welcomed and embraced. I felt ready to start from scratch and through focus and discipline begin to build myself up again.

But, this spring, the biggest tonic I would have was not work, but a different kind of play.

To be continued ...

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