Alone: A Love Story

Chapter 24 - Falling

The edge of despair, The Husband becomes a dandy, and the trouble with truth and trust.
"I will never let you fall down the well," he says, looking right into my eyes. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

This chapter is called Falling and there are a billion songs out there with the same name but no song reverberated in my mind as much as Falling by the incredible Michael Kiwanuka.

This song is off the album Love & Hate and I don't know if there's any album I've listened to more over the past few years, it is that good, top to finish. It is a perfect album in the old-sense of it, the way we used to listen to full albums, not just singles, the way we do now.

I'm not so much afraid as awkward

This chapter is almost entirely flashback. We start in 2009, with a vignette called Finish Line, where, married with a two-year-old and still freshly living with the recent diagnosis of MS, I get the crazy idea that I am going to run a 10k.

I feel like I'm looking at the finish line forever, like I will never actually arrive there. (Michelle Parise)

Of course the only way for me to do anything is to make sure the music is perfect. And so I made a playlist on my ole iPod.

Maybe this is cheesy but, in case you're dying to know, the first song on the playlist is Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush.

I also name-check a bunch of other artists in my perfectly-crafted race playlist:

I run. I do my tens-and-ones, passing the flags that mark each kilometer, through Kate Bush and Arcade Fire, through K'naan and The Clash, Vampire Weekend and Magic System. I'm amazed at the people that line the streets, cheering us on, offering us water.

Do you want to know the exact songs? I'll tell you! They were:

  • Fire in Freetown by K'naan. I'm pretty sure it was this song, but it's possible it was the awesome ABC's (featuring the legendary Chubb Rock!) both from 2009's Troubador, which is a perfect album I never get sick of.

  • Mansard Roof by Vampire Weekend, because I love any song that clocks in under 2.5 minutes.

  • 1er Gaou by Magic System, originally released in 1999, but became a massive hit in France in 2002. It's a massive hit in my headphones in any year.

When he returns, something's wrong

The next vignette in this flashback chapter is called On Strike. It takes place in 2011 and finally gives you a little more of an idea of what the six months leading up to The Bomb were really like. At first everything is going along in regular ways, the ebb and flow of married life. But then he changes suddenly.

It's like he's on strike. He's become remote, absent, even though he's right in front of us.

And it just gets worse from there. A six-month slide into madness. Ah, marriage!

The Thing About Truth and Trust

This is an important vignette. Starting right with the first few lines:

Was I really, actually so trusting?

I've wondered myself, you aren't the only one. Did I really, truly, trust my husband when we were married? The answer always comes back to me as yes.

That much is true. But of course, once I found out he had been lying to me, my sense of reality evaporated. And he kept lying to me, changing the details until finally settling on a story that I made the decision to believe since I have no way of knowing otherwise.

And this is where we left it. The affair lasted three months because that is what he says is the truth. 

Burning question. (Michelle Parise)

It's complicated to trust someone right after it's been revealed they've been lying and gaslighting you for months (maybe longer) but I felt like I had to, right away, in order to keep being a team with him. The team that would continue to raise our daughter together. She was only four-years-old at the time.

So in a way, I had to lie to myself. I had to trick myself into trusting him. I had to believe in him. And this takes an enormous amount of mental (spiritual, emotional) energy to pull off, every day of every year. It's had the most impact on me, confusing my mind, permeating all aspects of my life and is the reason for so much therapy. I'm getting there though, I'm getting there.

(Michelle Parise)

We end this mostly-flashback chapter by returning to the chronology, and 2015, with a story called The Well. In it, we find me feeling sorry for myself.

I feel like I'm falling down the well again, lost in that loop where I go back to the beginning of this chapter of my life, back to The Bomb, over and over again, replaying events of the past instead of living in the present.

White Shirt stops what he's doing and sits beside me. He takes my hand, firm, and looks right into my eyes. "I will never let you fall down the well," he says.

I'm so grateful he's here. This man who's always searching for himself and for another happiness, but who still comes over in a flash to fix a broken blind or read comics with Birdie or to stop me from falling down the well.

Later that night, even though The Man With the White Shirt is out somewhere having Saturday Night, he sends me a text:

My constant. (Michelle Parise)

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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.