On November 11th, 2018, just shy of our seven year anniversary, my boyfriend moved out.
My truth is simple – I broke up with him. Not once, not twice, but again and again. He, on the other hand, refused. If I still loved him, than we could work on things, fix things. He didn’t want to leave, he had never been dumped before. I became increasingly cold, quiet and distant, in hopes he’d leave me instead, but he still refused to listen, to leave, accept what I kept saying, over and over.
This went on for months, until I presented him with the only monster I had left.
On June 2nd, 2017, I stepped out of two sliding glass doors into the arid warm air of Los Angeles, and I immediately knew my life had changed forever. In one hand I pulled my carry on, and in the other, I held onto Anna, marveling at the colour of the sky, and how tall the palm trees were. I spent the next five days being chauffeured around by the California veteran that is Anna Mai, meeting all kinds of interesting people, eating fish fresh from the ocean, smelling the salt on the breeze and gritting sand between my toes and in my hair. I remember trying to explain to my boyfriend how exciting it was, and how beautiful everything was on the Saturday afternoon.
“Why are you so upset I’m not answering? Why do you keep calling? Why aren’t you just enjoying your vacation?” I kept telling him that I wanted to share everything, I wanted him to see, and wanted to video chat him and show him the ocean, and the carousel, the boarded up freak show, and the fields of strawberries.
“Tell me when you get home. Show me pictures when you get home.”
When I got home from the airport, a limo, ordered last minute by my boss, was waiting for Anna and I. The next day, he left for a last minute camping trip, without hearing a single story about my trip.
We would start couples therapy ten days later.
On November 14th, 2018, I flew to New York City for the opening gala of my New York office. This time as I walked through a set of sliding glass doors, I was met with crisp air, and a sky dotted with fluff. In one hand I pulled my carry on, and the other was held by a boy, now a man, with dark hair and bright eyes. This time it was my turn to play veteran, to share the city I loved, the city I’ve strived to be part of my entire life. I showed him Time Square and Fifth Avenue, we saw a Broadway show. We drank beer in Central Park, ate breakfast in Grande Central Station, and watched the skaters in Rockefeller Centre.
He let me sleep off the head cold I likely caught on the flight. He bought me my favourite American beer, and cough syrup. He learned the metro system quickly and made sure we didn’t get lost because of my fog brain. He boldly ordered my dinner for me and agreed to champagne breakfast. I don’t remember ever laughing so much in my life than I did in those four days.
Two weeks later, my boss asked me if I’d like to move to New York.
On December 29th, 2014, after playing on a week’s free trial, I re-subscribed to World of Warcraft after an almost six year hiatus. My boyfriend played Dota, a new hobby picked up in the fall of that year when we had moved back ‘home’, and into his parent’s basement in Niagara from our Toronto apartment to save money. I had given up my job, and the life I was trying to build in a city I hated, because I knew he wanted to be in Toronto, but by Christmas, all I wanted was my old life back. He didn’t see it the same way, so I was going to show him how toxic and detrimental his gaming addiction was to our relationship, and our lifestyle, by reciprocating with my own video game.
Three days later, New Years Eve, at the base of the Niagara-on-the-Lake clock tower, as we’re sipping champagne in the streets while the snow fell around us, he said that since we didn’t have an ‘official’ anniversary date, that it should be New Years.
Less than three months later, in a fit of frustration, I would walk out on him, and spend a few days at my best friend’s house. She lived up the street, maybe a ten minute walk. I was in her wedding party, and my boyfriend took some video footage of their destination wedding for them. To this day, he doesn’t know where her house is.
On December 15th 2007, the man I thought I was going to marry, picked up his things from my house, and dropped off a box of mine. We didn’t speak all of Christmas, or for a few months really. I dated someone, very casually quickly after, but it ended almost as quickly as it began. My heart and soul needed so much work. I was nineteen, and I had no idea what I wanted, or who I was. My ex was older, he was ready to settle, start a family. He was done school, I had barely started. He was beginning his career, and I still had no idea what the world was, let alone my place in it. We had different ideas on timelines in both our individual lives as well as our life as a couple, and we clashed where we should have been compromising.
In February, I would kiss a boy with dark hair and bright eyes on a GO train. A few days later, my ex would call.
When I saw him, I didn’t have any of the answers to the questions he asked. What did he do? Where did it go wrong? How could I look him in the eye, and tell him I love him, but not be with him?
I thought of the boy with the dark hair and the bright eyes. I thought of how it felt watching the tail lights of my ex’s car that day. I thought of how I wasn’t ready to meet my future children any time in the next decade, let alone in the next year or two. I thought of how much I had grown in three months and knew that love wasn’t enough.
I was nineteen years old the first time I tried to explain to a grown man that love was just a word.
On October 20th, 2018, I asked my boyfriend why he wouldn’t let me break up with him.
“Because I love you.”
“I love you to, but that’s not the point. We are breaking up.”
“Nope, it’s bullshit than.”
I laughed. I couldn’t help it. Here I was, more than a decade later, and I still had no idea how to explain to a grown man that love was just a word, and that sometimes, it wasn’t enough.
On November 17th, 2018, I arrived at the La Guardia airport, exhausted. My trip to NYC had been a whirlwind, between the gala, then working all day, and sight seeing all night. I was also exhausted from the barrage of messages and phone calls, coming at both myself, and the boy, now a man, with dark hair and bright eyes.
Together, we wandered into a bookstore, to see if we could find anything for the flight. I wandered to my favourite author, to hunt my favourite book. I have a bad habit of lending it out, so I never seem to own a copy. It was there, with a new editioned cover I had never seen. Intuitively, I flipped the book open, and found the words I needed to hear.
The boy, now a man, with dark hair and bright eyes, took the book from my hand and immediately bought it for me, so I bought him dinner.
And I haven’t looked back since.
“When you understand,” Brandy says, “that what you’re telling is just a story. It isn’t happening anymore. When you realize the story you’re telling is just words, when you can crumble it up and throw your past in the trashcan,” Brandy says, “then we’ll figure out who you’re going to be.”