Alone: A Love Story

Chapter 19: So it Goes

U2, unicorns, timequakes, red hills and the wisdom of Drew Barrymore ...
I know in reality I'm cautiously on Cloud 9. I know that unicorns aren't real. (Ben Shannon/CBC)
Listen to the full episode22:12

So it goes

The title of this chapter comes from the very last line in it:

And I say my favourite thing to say when there's nothing else to say, stolen words from a favourite author. "So it goes." Because really, So. It. GOES.

That author is fellow Scorpio Kurt Vonnegut, from his book Slaughterhouse-Five, the ultimate time-jumping story and a book I never, ever, EVER get tired of reading.

Fun fact #1 — Vonnegut died only two days after Birdie was born. I was still in the hospital when I found out, and my first thought was So it goes!

Slaughterhouse-Five isn't my most favourite book by him, but it's close. My favourite is the last full novel he wrote actually, Timequake. If you think I jump around in time a lot in my writing, you should read these books! Or any of his books, really. I love his non-linear storytelling and the way his voice is clear and present even in works of fiction. He breaks frame, jumps through time and space, upsetting the conventions of story structure. He wrote how he wanted to write and so obviously, I've always thought of him as my spirit guide (to which he'd reply "Hogwash!")

Fun fact #2 — Kurt Vonnegut is the only famous person I have ever written a letter to. I wrote it when I was 24-years-old, sitting on the shores of Georgian Bay. We were camping and I'd just finished reading Timequake. It was the one and only time I felt so close to — and understood by — a person I'd never met. So I wrote him a long letter saying so. 

Timequake is bananas, conceptually, and also one of the more original stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Like just totally original, nothing else like it, you can't even say there's another book like it. I mean you could, if you were more knowledgeable than me on such things, but since I'm not pretending to be a literary expert of any kind, the thoughts expressed here are those of just me, the reader.

The other most original book idea I've read in the last 20 years is Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis. Man, I love this book (so did everyone because it won all the awards) but seriously, it is absolutely weird and wonderful. I have so much love for artists who can come up with something actually, truly NEW, you know?

Speaking of things new, this chapter is filled with the newness of being on Cloud 9, and unicorns and magic and mist and blah blah blah. The White Shirt love story is in FULL SWING now you guys!

What magic feels like

To me, obviously, it feels like a gorgeous man with eyes like missiles, sitting on the edge of my bathtub playing guitar and singing.

And not just singing anything, singing one of my favourite songs, Daniel Lanois' The Messenger, with one of my favourite lyrics:

Oh the door that closes tightly is the door that can swing wide.

I love it because it's so hopeful. I love it because when the door closes it isn't a window that opens, but the exact same door! That speaks to me, somehow. That the same thing that can seem definitive one day, can morph and change the next. This is why forgiveness is so important. And second chances.

Originally, back in 2013, I wrote Alone: A Love Story as a book. And this line was what I imagined would be on the first page. Just that line.

And so on the IRL day that White Shirt sang this song in my bathroom, I felt like it was yet another sign. And I rushed to dig out my notebook and showed him this:

For all my practicality, I really do live and love by the concepts of hope, signs and the whims of the pulpy insides of my heart.

Michelle finds romance for the first time in a long time. 0:28


This is a little vignette that shows what a faint glimmer of hope can look like. It's the half-glass of lemonade I made from The Ex-husband's lemons.

It's a tiny ode to art, no matter how good or bad, because art lifted me out of the depths and reminded me who I was.

Every time I'd look at the script or our storyboard wall of post-it notes, I'd hear the song Art by Halifax musician Tanya Davis.

I first heard this song back in 2008 when I was the Senior Producer of the CBC Music show Drive with Rich Terfry. We both loved this quirky song.

Many years and lives later, Rich, who is the prolific and talented artist known as Buck 65, released one of my favourite albums of his, Neverlove, the divorce album of all divorce albums (is that a genre even?)

Check out this line from the song Love Will F--k You Up:

Can't conceive how she must feel, the fatigued wife of a question

I mean, wow, so beautiful and exactly right on. The fatigued wife of a question. Tell me about it!

The Red Hills

I'm not kidding when I say that still today, no other day has come even close to being as wonderful and fun and special and fulfilling as the one where White Shirt is smiling that 50-watt smile at me as I drive us to The Red Hills.

So, it turns out they're actually called The Cheltenham Badlands (which does not roll off the tongue!) but as a teenager in nearby Brampton, Ontario, we always called them The Red Hills.

Aren't they beautiful and strange?

Soon after White Shirt and I visited in the Fall of 2013, they closed them off to the public because of deterioration caused by overuse and misuse.

Now you can go again, but you can only stand at the top. You can't meander all over as we did. Still worth it if you're in the area!

Then we take some selfies. These are still my most favourite photos of us. He still has one of them framed on his desk at home, where he makes music and lives his life, with or without me.

This is a mini-flashforward, where I hint at the ouroboros that our love will become. And I do it with a nod to U2 again for some reason! and the song With or Without You which was a massive hit when White Shirt and I were in grade school.

I remember how my friends and I would actually argue about it on the playground at recess: "He's saying I CAN'T live with or without you!" "No way, he's saying he CAN!"  

It was such a debate in 1986!

The town we go to in this vignette, where he asks me about meeting Birdie, is called Belfountain. It's a "historic hamlet" apparently.

You have to drive up crazy windy roads to get to it. And then it's a beautiful little place to stroll around like it's the 19th Century or something. I haven't been back since that day in 2013 with White Shirt. Maybe I should.

There's also a conservation area with caves to explore and a waterfall and picnic tables. It's delightful. I've convinced myself now to take Birdie there for a nice day trip!

Too good to be true

Ah, well.

This is a very sad vignette, that made Alone producer Veronica Simmonds sad every time she heard it, "Especially coming after The Red Hills! Aggggg!" she'd say and mime like she was being stabbed in the heart. We can get a little dramatic around here sometimes.

So anyway, just another day in Toronto, just another conversation on a park bench about monogamy and not believing in categories.

"You act so boyfriend-y though!" is what I manage to say to him, like I'm Drew Barrymore, in a f---ing rom-com.

For the record, I love Drew Barrymore and I wouldn't say no if she wanted to play me in the rom-com version of Alone: A Love Story.  Just sayin'.

Now, I'm going to toot my own horn here and say that one of the finest things I've ever written is the very last line I say in this vignette:

We stand there for a long time, just looking directly into each other's eyes. I turn around and head into the school, my heart like a deflated balloon after the world's best party.


I feel ya, Drew.

Want more Alone: A Love Story

Download the  CBC Radio app, subscribe on  Apple podcasts (or wherever you get your podcasts) or bookmark  this site
You can also join our community on  Facebook and  Twitter, where we share little gems you may or may not hear on the podcast. Talk soon!