the single/montreal years
Rue Fullum, Montreal, Quebec
February 2008 – July 2008
Soundtrack: Sia – Some People Have Real Problems (entire album)
I left Nova Scotia on Valentine’s Day with a broken heart and a suitcase. It was a battered brown suitcase, the same one my mom gave to me when I left home a decade earlier, the suitcase she most likely traveled with when she landed in Canada in 1975. The rest of my meagre belongings were packed in boxes and stored in the house K and I had bought and renovated together. Our first and last house.
I had been a serial monogamist for most of my life. Four years with my high school boyfriend and then only a brief hiatus before diving into the next relationship that would take me through my twenties and into my thirties. Twelve years, K and I were together. When I boarded the plane that Valentine’s Day (in hindsight the departure date was probably a massive subconscious “fuck you” to the man who broke my heart), I didn’t have a clue who I was without him. I was like one of those dogs that’s tethered for so long that even when you unclip the chain, he stays close to the peg. The peg had become, over the years, something that made me feel safe and the idea of venturing out, past the threshold, was daunting. Untethered, I didn’t quite know what to do or where to go.
I landed at my friend Kat’s place, a sanctuary from the storm. She fed me wholesome food, she looked after me, she helped me get back on my feet. I wanted to stay with her forever but I couldn’t delay the inevitable. I hopped on a train to Montreal. My cousin Amy picked me up at the station in her beat-up car. I think she had to hold the car door shut while she drove because it kept opening. It made me laugh. She made me laugh. Everything was going to be OK. Then not OK. Then OK again. Over and over for months to come.
I moved in with Amy, who’s boyfriend was training for the Beijing Olympics and was away for most days of most months. She had a spare room. I set my bags down. I didn’t cry but I wanted to. I reckon she opened a bottle of wine. It may have been before noon.
Within a month of moving back, I found a temp job at PwC. It was the first time in a loooooong time that I got paid a decent wage. I got my head down. I worked hard.
Once in a while I’d call K from a phone booth at the corner of our street. There were affairs to settle, mostly house stuff, but I think it was habit that kept me calling. He said he missed me and I told him that he didn’t have the right to say such things (even though I missed him too).
I don’t know what I would have done without my cousin Amy’s constant support, sense of humour and unwavering enthusiasm. When I emailed her with the news of our breakup, she promised to try to make me smile. And she did, everyday. We joined a yoga studio together, we went climbing, she introduced me to her friends, she took me out dancing, we got completely hooked on Lost and watched the Montreal Canadians play all the way through to the Stanley Cup semifinals until they lost to Philadelphia. We ate a lot of hummus. Drank a lot of wine. My family took me in whenever Steph was in town. Friends took me out all the time. There was so much goodness and kindness and generosity.
Still, it was a tough winter. Never have I been so happy to see crocuses poking through the snow. A thawing. A new life. I turned 33 in that apartment on Fullum. I treated myself to my dream DSLR. I started to take photos. I started this blog. Photography and writing got me through the tough days.
August rolled around. The Olympics were about to start, soon Steph would be home for good. It was time for me to flap my fledgling wings, jump from the nest and fly into singlehood proper.
The search for an apartment triggered all the feelings that I’d managed to keep at bay for those first five months. It made the end of my relationship feel more final than the day I had left. Perhaps I had fooled myself into believing that my stay at Amy’s was a layover on my long flight back home. After all, I had no strings tying me here – a temp job and no place to call my own.
But with the offer of a permanent position and the search for a one-bedroom apartment, my stay no longer felt temporary. It felt very real, very permanent and no matter how much I tried to sugar coat it with images of freshly painted walls and vintage Pyrex dishes… it was still me sitting on my couch, me eating leftovers, me watching a movie, me lying in my single bed, me sipping a glass of wine, me alone. There was no us in this reality and that was a tough pill to swallow.
Note: Going down memory lane is making my brain hurt, you guys. So I’m gonna have to leave part two for tomorrow.