Chapter 27 - Blow Away
And even if I'm just a paper doll, I'll fold into myself and learn to fly. While the winds of change blow through you all, they pull me up to the sky, I'm up in the sky and I feel like I could blow away.
For nine months, we are a couple. That Couple. The one that looks great together on Instagram.
Yes, we were trying. Trying out my version of what a couple is. Our families and friends were ecstatic. Any photo of us on social media got hundreds of likes and comments with hearts and smiley faces with hearts for eyes and "Finalllllly!!!!"
This Thing We're Doing is bigger than us, and we make a million mistakes at it.
We were awkward at it. Lousy, even. Neither of us had entered into a monogamous, committed relationship since we were in our mid-20s. The last time I tried with someone, was with The Ex-husband, when I was 25. The last time White Shirt tried it out, he was also somewhere around 25 or 26. And this is also not who he is, to be in this kind of relationship.
I don't think I fully understood that at the time. I thought he had "changed" or that love had triumphed. I just didn't know then what I know now, that love has nothing to do with it. We all have different values when it comes to intimacy and relationships, we all have different ideas about what love means and what relationships are.
So we really were trying. Trying to fit ourselves into something that could never be what either of us really wanted. Maybe that was obvious to everyone then but it was only obvious to me in hindsight. Man, do we love each other still. But that doesn't mean we're meant to be. All I know is, he tried. We tried.
Just growing pains
Still, as you hear in this vignette, I thought all our awkward not-fitting was "just growing pains" just regular ole relationship stuff.
And you hear about how, thanks to White Shirt, I had my one truly happy Christmas since my marriage ended and how, because he got a job with an airline, we had a bunch of adventures ...
We went on trips together, because now he had flight privileges and I did too as his companion. We got stranded in Charlottetown for five days in a snowstorm.
We went to Miami Beach and Mexico.
Some things are worth the suffering. To me, anyway, hopeless romantic that I am.
There is a beautiful song you hear in this vignette when I am talking about White Shirt's family and my obsession with where they are from, Angola and Portugal. As I talk about trying to learn Portuguese, the music you hear is a fado song called Noite e Amantes (Night and Lovers) by Philippe de Sousa with the fado singer Marisa Teixeira.
Fado translates to fate, and basically every fado song makes me cry. There's something so tortured and beautiful about the melodies. There's a reason the Portuguese have the word saudade in their lexicon and that it's tied to fado music, both melancholic. I know, it's surprising I'm not Portuguese.
No painting so aptly depicts the way it feels to be me, looking at White Shirt while he sings. Then and now and maybe forever. Hopefully not, but maybe.
I remind him how he would always come back from his trips to Portugal with the most perfect little gifts for me. "Now I'll be there with you!" I say, but he's silent.
I couldn't wait to be there with The Man With the White Shirt. To walk the streets with him, helping him to carry the load of memories, good and bad. The homeland of my love, the heavy and light of his heart.
Alas, I did not get to go to Portugal with White Shirt and his family. By the end of this vignette, he breaks up with me.
Don't feel like trying anymore, got nothing left
I know, you are heartbroken with me by this point. Or maybe just exhausted by us. Sorry!
I wake up to the sound of him getting ready for work and everything feels normal for a second, until I remember it isn't normal at all, it's over. He looks so handsome in his suit and I hate him for it.
I drive him to the airport.
And then his face, so sad, through the open passenger window, my name coming quietly out of his lips.
I guess I like the ocean in times of crisis
This sad chapter ends with me and Birdie flying in the opposite direction of Portugal and going to British Columbia to visit my brother, in a vignette I call Recovery.
Here in this small town on the west coast where everyone seems to know everyone, and deer walk down the street.
I think this season makes it sound like all I do is take trips! Again, it helps having the travel privileges thanks to White Shirt. But also, as a single-mom with a mortgage and a modest public radio salary, I am very frugal in every aspect of my life, precisely so I can travel. That is how I do it. Frugally and with purpose.
We flew standby and it took 18 hours to get there (three time zones, two planes and a ferry! Canada is BIG, man!) but taking Birdie to see my brother and his big warm family was just what we both needed. There's no price on that.
"Everything's going to be okay, Bird," I say and she says,
"Uh, yeah mom, obviously! Everything's going to be GREAT!"
She's the best kid. I am the luckiest in that respect, that's for sure.
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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.