Alone: A Love Story

Chapter 23 - In Dreams

PDA in NYC, running in circles and sex as ceasefire.
It's the sexiest walk I have ever taken. I feel like I'm in a movie. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

The title of this chapter comes from my favourite Roy Orbison song, 1963's In Dreams. Holy man could he could sing. His range in this song is astounding! I think he changes key every four bars or something.

Actually, there are seven distinct musical movements in the song, each with their own melody and chord structure. It never repeats itself! In a 2 minute and 48 second ladder, he masterfully climbs through two octaves. It's bananas for a pop-rock song.

So, do you want to take me back to Brooklyn?

Most of this chapter is one big long vignette called Brooklyn. It's a pretty good story about an unexpected little romance in New York City. The Best Man, as I call him, really swept me off my feet. If we lived in the same city, one hundred percent he would have been the one to get me over The Man With the White Shirt.

"Why don't you exist in Toronto?" I ask him.

"Why don't you exist in New York?" he asks, impossibly. How can a smart, super-cute, interesting, fit, talented, shit-together 35-year-old man not find a girlfriend in this giant city?

(Michelle Parise)

Alas, life has its mysteries, and one of them is why location and timing are such jerks when it comes to finding "the one."

While we had this little romance, I mostly really did forget about The Man With the White Shirt. Mostly. But there was one point, as Best Man and I wandered around Manhattan, where we came upon an intersection that immediately brought a song (and White Shirt) flooding into my head. 

Think of what it might have been, if we took a bus to Chinatown
I'd be standin' on Canal and Bowery, she'd be standin' next to me 

Yeah, standing with The Best Man at the corner of Canal and Bowery, an intersection I'd only ever heard of in the song Ho Hey by The Lumineers, I thought of The Man With the White Shirt. The lyrics were so apt, you know? 

I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart

Anyway, after meeting Best Man and having the whirlwind New York City romance that felt like the kind that happens in movies, I had to go back home to my life as a single mom with a not-boyfriend. It was a strange feeling.

I woke up in a dream man's bed in Brooklyn! And now I'm here with White Shirt and his dog and our city and our complicated non-relationship and what, everything is supposed to be normal even when it isn't?

(Michelle Parise)

It was an unsettling feeling, to not only wake up in one man's bed and go to sleep in another's, but in two totally different countries in the same day. LIFE!

Neither of us wants to have a long-distance relationship, but we stay in touch. Every few weeks one of us will send a short email and the other responds. 

(Michelle Parise)

The Best Man and I stopped writing each other eventually. But of course we do still like each other's Instagram photos. Also, he has found his "one" and is engaged now. I'm happy for him because that was what he wanted, what we both wanted, and maybe one day I will find it too, but you know, where I happen to live.

There are a ton of songs about New York, including the terrific Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. But the lyrics of St. Vincent's New York really say it all for me and this story in my life.

New love wasn't true love back to you love ...

That one line is basically the summary of Brooklyn​, you know? This song is SO good and so short, so I often listen to it twice in a row. Also, St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) is a total badass lady.

Did you know she designed the first electric guitar for women? As those of us who play guitar well know, it isn't easy when you have boobs that get in the way and small hands that make barre chords difficult. Also electric guitars weigh a f---ing ton. I dream of one day getting one of St. Vincent's guitars for women!

My head says one thing, my heart says another

Why can't they just get along with each other?

I mean, there's the eternal question right there. These are lyrics from the song Pick a Direction by Yahenda. You hear a lot of this song, and stripped down variations of it, in Season 3 of Alone: A Love Story, because they perfectly sum up the years of back and forth with The Man With the White Shirt. 

The fun fact here is that I don't use it in the vignette called Pick a Direction which follows Brooklyn and is about me and White Shirt trying desperately to pick head over heart ... and failing. Again.

Honestly already! (Michelle Parise)

But Here's the Thing

The last vignette in this chapter is more of a tone-poem. A creed. A paean to love. I can't help it, I'm a hopeless romantic.

Love is strange and wonderful and you cannot choose it. You can choose to not see it or feel it when it's there with you, but you can't choose it out of existence.

Love floods you like a high beam on a dark country road.

Love is a defender that sometimes gets in your way.

Love shoots you up in the sky like a corner-store firework, cheap but exciting.

Love sticks to you like gum on the bottom of your shoe or parsley in your teeth.

Love is a flood that cannot be stopped no matter how many sandbags you put out.

You can't prepare. You can only act. Action is the antidote to anxiety. Certainty is a myth.

So you may as well let that light flow right into you, right through you and experience it now, even if it's only temporary.

Even if it's just in knowing that there's no real way of knowing.

(Michelle Parise)

Want to keep up with Alone: A Love Story? Listen for free on your favourite podcast app. 

About Michelle Parise

Award-winning producer Michelle Parise is the writer, performer and producer of Alone: A Love Story, a book she began writing in January 2013 and adapted into a podcast for CBC in 2017.

She's worked for CBC Radio and Television for over two decades. Michelle was born and raised in Toronto in a gigantic Italian immigrant family where she was surrounded by storytellers.

As a child she wrote hundreds of short stories about her life. Her commitment to honest storytelling started early and is part of everything she creates, continually striving to make connection through shared experience.