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The Goddess of battle, strife, and destruction explains it all for you

Sept 26, 2005

It occurred to me recently – and what an alarming realization it was – that I’ve never before sat myself down and decided what I wanted in my life. I never made a plan.  Or at least not consciously. 


With one exception.


I drifted into things – law school, even marriage in a certain way (though it’s hard to characterize marrying a man I’d clapped eyes on for the first time a mere month before as drifting).  You know what I mean – doing what was expected of me – the old familiar path of least resistance. 


But the events leading up to the marriage were anything but ordinary or expected.  Looking back, it probably seemed more like a blitz attack to the Beloved.


I was very young, in a new town, determined to succeed at law school and equally determined to stay unencumbered of any man. (I’d been left chastely at the altar by a gay man not that long before – long story --  I’ll get to it someday.) This was all about career, all about me.  (It’s been kind of a theme throughout my life.  I never seem to tire of the concept.)


Because I have always been pathologically early for everything, I left for my first day of classes just before 7 a.m.  I caught the Richmond #6 at the end of my street, and I took at seat in the one of the singles on the left side of the bus. 


One seat ahead of me across the aisle was a young man resting his face against the window, obviously sleeping.


This was a convenient state of affairs if one is after an opportunity for unimpeded staring so I was in luck and saw absolutely no reason to look a gift horse in the mouth.  I settled in for some serious covert ogling.


He was in his early 20s, shoulder length brown hair, a nice face and a body that would make Michelangelo weep.  Perfection.


I smiled the grinchy smile I always do when I’m feeling especially smug and pleased with myself.


I continued my avid scrutiny as unwholesome scenarios played out in my head.


He started awake after the bus hit a pothole and stretched rather fetchingly. Nice and slow. Did I mention that it was a sleeveless T-shirt?  The view was breathtaking.  A rower’s body.  Mother of God.  I’m only flesh and blood.


I didn’t look at him again after he woke up. 


As I’d hoped, we were both getting off at the University Centre. As he stumbled yawning out of the bus behind me, I turned to him.  “Excuse me.  Do you know where I can get a coffee?”


(Note to women:  Yes!  It really is that easy!)


“Uh, over there…” he gestured.


“Would you please show me?  It’s my first day on campus and you look like you could use a coffee anyway.”


I didn’t give him much of a chance to refuse my invitation and Canadian boys are too polite to say no.  


So for the next hour over coffee, we talked.  He laughed at all my jokes, I ogled him to my heart’s content (subtly, I hoped) and flirted shamelessly.   Then I got up.


“Look, I have to go. I’ve got a class.  It was nice to talk to you.  We’ll probably run into each other again.  I’m a caffeine addict, which is a good thing because 3 of my classes are at 8:30.  I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around.”


Oh, I’d be seeing him all right.  If he were straight, he’d be scouring the campus.  I may have been out of practice, but the art of seduction is like riding a bike.


You never forget how. 


I walked to class with the same grinchy leer that had crept across my face in the bus.


The next day, I arrived at the coffee kiosk and found he’d beaten me to it.  I later learned that he didn’t have to be at school at all that day and could have been home sleeping instead of loitering around the food court at 7:30 in the morning.


We had too many coffees and wound up talking for another few hours about music, politics, books, etc. (I didn’t have a class that day till 10:30) and I found him really interesting, with a quick wit and a gentle, accepting nature.   He told me he was just out of his first relationship, which had lasted for some years and culminated in cohabitation.  He found out she cheated on him and they broke up.  An attempt at reconciliation had failed.  He seemed shell-shocked by it, like he was not really taking it in.  It touched me. 


He was very smart and had a sense of humour that resonated with mine.  He was so smart, in fact, that I had the uneasy sense that he could see the person beneath the persona. That he’d been listening to more than the words.  I’d never got that impression from anyone else.


It scared the shit out of me.


I invited him over to dinner the next night. 


Moments after he arrived, I opened the bottle of wine he’d brought and we sat on the couch.  A few moments of smoldering glances later, he got up and walked to the window.


“I’m not good at the casual thing,” he said.


Was I hearing this correctly? 


“I’m not either,” I said lamely.  “I never do this sort of thing,” I continued, knowing that from his perspective it was fair to assume that I did exactly this sort of thing at every available opportunity. I certainly seemed comfortable enough with the whole idea. 


So what now?  Appear to be an abandoned slut or stick with the truth and reveal myself as a desperate sex-starved shut-in?  Even though it upped the pathetic meter, I opted for the truth and confessed.  “I haven’t even had a date in a year and a half.” 


He didn’t seem surprised.


“Ah,” he said.  “But why me?”


I stopped, suddenly awkward.  I never imagined I’d have to spell it out.


He got up and walked to the window.


“Look,” I improvised to his back.  “You’re leaving for B.C. in a few weeks and I just started law school.  We don’t really know each other.  It can hardly be a permanent arrangement.  I don’t want to do the long distance thing.” 


In what universe do women need to argue about this?  I was stumped, suddenly tripping all over myself. 


“So let me get this straight,” he mused.  “You’re beginning a new phase of your life in a city where you don’t know anyone.  You’ve been single for what amounts to forever, it’s beginning to worry you and I’m leaving the province in a few weeks.”  He turned and gave me an appraising look.   “I can do the math, you know.” 


He stared at me for a minute, shook his head and laughed softly to himself.


“And you figured I’d be easy,” he concluded.


“Well, yes,” I confessed.   “I was rather hoping that you might be.”


He laughed again, this time out loud.  “You’re really honest, aren’t you?”


“Oh God, no.  Hardly ever.  But this time I’m telling the truth.  I didn’t realize you’d find it insulting.”


During the pause in conversation, I stooped to outright “c’mon mate, you’re only human” enticements and whatever reservations he may have had vanished.  As I hauled him off the couch, I kicked over the bottle of merlot onto my new white carpet.  He hesitated.


“To hell with the carpet,” I told him as I dragged him towards my brand new boudoir (wondering how thick the walls were in this building and muttering “FINALLY!  FINALLY! under my breath. 


Suffice to say that I good time was had by all – an extremely good time.  The kind that makes you smile for 3 weeks.


I had stupidly used no birth control – yes, unsafe sex.  I should have known better – I did know better.   A glimpse at the calendar a few moments later indicated that the wisest course would be the morning after pill. I could not afford to compound what had been a reckless choice with neglect and potential disaster. 


I took a dose from a package I had obtained against all rational expectation as a gesture of defiance, during an extended period of chastity my friends were cruel enough to dub the “Marathon of Hope”.  Still, I could deal with see the pills unused – it amused me to keep them around for comic relief as a pithy observation on my social life.  It was better than needing them and not having them.  I was glad enough of them now – and thank God they weren’t expired.


My first thought after downing the pills was to get him out of my apartment.  It had been quite delightful but I had every reason to expect that the next 24 hours were not going to be pretty and I didn’t feel up to entertaining during the process.   I really didn’t want the indelible picture on endless replay in his head the next day to be me throwing up.  I had to get him out of there.


It hit me faster than I’d expected.  I made a lunge for the toilet and started throwing up with a vengeance, one hand trying to hold my hair out of the mess while the other was waving him away.


“Please.  Just go. I’ll call you.”  I was hit with another violent wave of nausea a when it was over, I was hunched, sweaty and shivering on the bathroom floor.  This was not the lasting impression I wanted to leave in any lover’s memory. 


I heaved myself to my feet. “Please go.  I need to sleep now.”   My knees wobbled fiercely and I clutched for the wall.


With admirable reflexes, he shot an arm out to catch me.


“Let me do this.”


He sat me down and washed my face with a cool cloth.  He started a bath, then picked me up and laid me gently in bed.  He carried me to the tub when the water was ready (not as romantic as it sounds, as I was spectacularly ill again as soon as we hit the can).  He washed my hair with infinite tenderness, dried me off and tucked me into fresh sheets.  He brought me tea and lay beside me stroking my hair until I fell asleep.


While I slept, he got the red wine stain out of my white carpet and cleaned the kitchen.


How could I not fall for this man?


The next 48 hours were a crash course in ballistics using vomit as a medium.  He stuck around for the duration and looked after me. 


I’m happy to report that during those periods when I wasn’t vomiting, I managed to find the strength to, well, you know and the fact that I was sweaty didn’t seem to put him off at all. 


As the days hurtled by, I found myself in a fog of confusion, need, longing and anxiety.  I began to care deeply for this man in a very short time – and that alone scared the hell out of me.  When I examined my feelings and tried to dismiss them as infatuation, all I felt was an abiding certainty that I needed him in my life, as if he were an element without which I would be less than my authentic self.


It wasn’t supposed to lead to marriage. 


It was supposed to be a fling – nothing more.  Not only was he unabashedly on the rebound in a major way, he was leaving a few weeks later for B.C. – one of the strongest factors in his favour at the outset.   I was just starting law school.  Neither of us was in any position to assume new romantic ties. 


Prior to this, I was very brutal when ending things (and platonic things were all I was used to) – I simply vanished.  I did not want to get involved and a declaration of love sent me fleeing even before the words crumbled to dust in the speaker’s mouth. 


Looking back, that seems utterly reprehensible and caddish of me -- but at the time I didn’t know what else to do.   


It wasn’t deliberate – does that count? I thought the men involved were buddies – but apparently they thought that if they only worked on me more, I’d fall for them (or at least succumb).   And they’d go on working at it -- with me utterly oblivious -- in two cases for some years without a scrap of encouragement, until they couldn’t stand my cluelessness any longer and made a move on me.


On these occasions I was completely blindsided.  I didn’t see it coming.  And I invariably responded by grabbing my coat and walking out without a word.


Then I vanished – completely – from their lives.  I didn’t give it a second thought.  The phrase “I love you” provokes in me a “fight or flight” response that invariably leads to flight. 


On every occasion except this.


My romantic past had led to some harsh nicknames, “Ice Queen” being the least of them.  Try having your bedroom widely known as “The Dead Zone.”  I had refused proposals of marriage and some excruciatingly tempting invitations to sin without hesitation.  I had resisted emotional blackmail, attempts at manipulation, pleading, pity and appeals to give it a try. I was impervious to every weapon in the male arsenal and my armour didn’t have a single dent in it.  


And then -- before I even saw it coming -- he destroyed all my defences with the one tactic I’d never encountered before:  kindness.  I was helpless in the face of it.


I could tell he was a good man: it shone from him.  He was far more laid back than I was, and although he rolled his eyes a lot, he managed to endure my frenetic company.   We laughed constantly, conspirators right off the bat. He valued my opinion – and I had an opinion on everything.  He treated me so carefully, didn’t take anything for granted, listened to every word I said.  I knew that when he looked at me, he knew who I was. He saw me. 


I didn’t have to pretend I was anything else – and he wouldn’t have let me get away with it if I tried.  He didn’t push to change me or save me, not overtly. In a world I’ve always found exhausting, he was sanctuary.   I think that at first, and for a long time after, he was just watching me.  He said it was like living in the eye of a hurricane.


Don’t get the idea that the fact that he was smitten made him a pushover.  He saw right through me from the first day we met and he called me on it every time. (He still does.)  He had more integrity than anyone I’d ever met.  


And his mind was a cathedral. 


He treated me as if I were something infinitely precious.  I remember relaxing into it slowly, waiting for him to put a foot wrong, taking my time until I could figure out if I could trust it.  And he waited.


It took years.


But these days, he asks me what he means to me and misunderstands when I say “safety” – though even that word doesn’t properly conjure the sense of what I mean.  He hears “safety” and regards it as a pejorative thing – a place of convenience as opposed to a place where there is no fear. 


I find the peace of having one place in the world where I don’t have to keep my guard up to be such a reprieve – and I think he doesn’t understand how much that means to me.  He takes it as a slight – he would like to be valued for other things and sells us both cheap by what he imagines that he wants. 


But in this, I have a vast and existential guilt.  For this, for the hurt I’ve caused, there will be an accounting. 


He tried everything to keep us going, to help us reconnect.  And I just grew complacent, believing that he would always be with me.


It amazes me how egocentric I was in endorsing this bit of wishful thinking.


Believe it or not, I was even more superficial and self-absorbed all those years ago than I am now.  Hard to imagine, eh?  The Beloved took on the impossible task of civilizing me and I’m not exaggerating.  With the devotion of a dedicated anthropologist, he spent years struggling to prove to me that other people do, in fact, exist.   Despite the strides I’ve made in this regard, there is plainly much more work to be done.


This whole relationship is about missed chances, of potential squandered.  That fact has held us both frozen in place for the better part of the last decade – eight years of walking on eggshells in a weird kind of stasis where nothing much is said, but you could drown in the subtext. And since each of us has a different point of reference for analyzing that subtext, it’s not surprising that we don’t seem to understand each other.


I want to yell “Do over! Do over!” but it’s way too late for that now.


At this point, it’s is not about not loving someone, it’s about being able to live with them.  I know he loves me, as I will always love him.  But we are so different and I can’t bear what I’ve become to him. 


I want him to look at me and see more than guilt and trouble and need.  I want him to remember who we were.  He says we need distance to figure out if we can do that.  Or if there’s a point to it even if we can. 


But as I said, I know I have guilt here. 


I miss him every single day.  He believes that I don’t think of him at all and instead I obsess over it.  Despite the humiliation, what I mourn most is the waste of it all.   I don’t think that has ever occurred to him. 


Our courtship was certainly unique -- I smile to remember it all (yes, that grinchy smile) – and I think that over the years, our connection has only become more entrenched and unseverable, like roots entwined around a tree. 


Looking back, it seems a simple case of being swept off your feet, but I dislike the analogy – logic dictates that you wind up on your back. 


Don’t get me wrong:  that was definitely part of it.  At first, the biggest part of it. 


But the rest of it? 


The feeling of belonging?  That sense of recognition?


That took me completely by surprise.


Till next time,



Copyright© the Morrigan & Heartless Bitches International ( 2004
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