Alone: A Love Story

Chapter 28 - Love After Love

Spiderman, a sexy cowboy, and making my way out of the wild, wild wood.
I finally feel like I'm going to find my way out of the wild, wild wood. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

So this is it, the final chapter of Season 3 and of Alone: A Love Story. It's a memoir, so it isn't final final, since it's my life, but this particular journey, which started in 1999, comes to a close in early 2018.

The title of this chapter is the title of a favourite poem,  Love After Love by Derek Walcott.

I quote this poem in the first vignette, called Going Home. It sounds silly to a lot of people maybe, but not being able to go home to my own empty apartment has been a serious psychological issue for me.

It took nearly six full years after The Bomb to be okay with being alone in my own home. To want to be alone here. To love it. Not all the time, but at least some of the time. "Love After Love", just like the poet Derek Walcott said. He was right, it happens!

It happened. I still have all my other issues to work on, but at least this one is behind me!

Hey, Darlin' how's yer day goin'?

Ah, The Farm Boy. My lovely and talented friend who brings a smile to my face even as I write this. It's nice, to be able to reflect without it causing a massive hole inside, you know?

We talk about love and music and philosophy. He's very sweet and young and kinda goofy. I like how un-Toronto he is.

(Michelle Parise)

The story about Farm Boy, in the vignette called Shamble, is a good reminder that you can, with your eyes and your smiles and your conversational skills, meet good strangers. That in the physical world, it's possible to meet a sweet human who you never would have met in the constructed and weird online world. A person that may not be your soul mate, but at least becomes a true friend to have deep conversations with and also, is someone who makes you feel good. Like, really good.

It's something for right now, me at 43, tired of dating and being disappointed, tired of texting and being ghosted, and not at all interested in swiping some app where men my own age ignore me or send me dick pics.

For now I will hang out with this sweet 27-year-old, who calls to make sure I'm doing okay and cooks me amazing meals.

(Michelle Parise)

There's a tiny scene in Shamble where Farm Boy and I kiss on New Year's Eve and I flash back to The Man With the White Shirt.

He kisses me long and sweet, there in my friend The Lawyer's living room, so close to the spot where just the year before, The Man With the White Shirt kissed me at midnight then said it was the best New Year's kiss he's ever had, that it was his happiest New Year's Eve.

And right after, Fleetwood Mac's "You Make Loving Fun" came on, and we laughed and sang it out loud in each others' arms. It was always my least favourite song on that album, I thought it was so cheesy, until that moment when it became my favourite, because now it was a memory and a feeling.

(Michelle Parise)

Normally I'm all for a Christine McVie-penned song, but You Make Loving Fun was always a bit cornball to me. Until this moment, as I said.

While it's true I do have a soft spot for it now, it's hardly my favourite song on Rumours! C'mon Parise, keep the hyperbole to a minimum! There are at least four songs on that album that are my favourite before this one, no matter how lovely the memory attached to it is!

(What's that? You want to know what my favourite favourite is? Well, okay! It's the Stevie Nicks song  Dreams, which is a karaoke staple for me and also has the truest lyrics ever. Stevie obviously had a Man With the White Shirt in her life, too.)

Negative one real partner

In a vignette called Monogamish, I once again and for the final time, bemoan the state of my love life. Noted sex columnist Dan Savage coined the term monogamish several years ago, to describe his relationship with his husband and as an answer to the complicated issues many individuals in long-term partnerships face. 

(Michelle Parise)

I've co-opted the term monogamish to describe how it feels when you want to be monogamous, but can't while in the ole dating pool.

It bugs me that my only choice is polyamory or celibacy.

Dan Savage is brilliant at what he does and I am in total favour of people doing whatever works for them: polyamory, ACR (Asymmetrically Committed Relationships ...yes, that's a thing), good ole run-of-the-mill monogamy, or all the other combinations and possibilities for having and expressing love and intimacy. Whatever works for you, great! I just know what works for me. And right now, this isn't it.

It's a totally different game for each of us, and I am so tired of playing it.

I've severed The Lonely from it's conjoined twin Alone

The final vignette of the entire series is called Wildwood, after one of my favourite songs ever, Wild Wood by Paul Weller.

Climbing, forever trying
Find your way out of the wild, wild wood
Now there's no justice
Only yourself that you can trust in
Climbing, forever trying
Said you are gonna find you way out of the wild, wild wood

This song speaks to me. It's always been there with me, through this entire ordeal, as a mantra. A reminder that one day I will not be lost in the thicket. I will be out of the woods. All the arboreal cliches will be behind me.

I love it so much, it's etched on the back of my beloved iPod Classic!

One day, Paul Weller, one day. (Michelle Parise)

And I do make my way out of it. Mostly. The story ends with me in Mexico dancing in a gay bar at four am and feeling freer than I have in all my life.

I don't think about work or my kid or my family or the leaky faucet in my kitchen and the baseboards that need painting or how my car needed an oil change six months ago and I still haven't done it yet.

(Michelle Parise)

I just dance and everything that's happened in the previous six years totally evaporates.

And this is it — unfiltered, actual happiness.

But happiness as you know, is a thing earned. A thing we all need to work for. 

Although I still struggle with loneliness most days, I fight it, hard. With regular therapy, and friendship. Without alcohol, with more rest. I work at it, I concentrate on finding the silver lining. That thin, shimmery thread that keeps me in this world. 

It's lucky that no matter what, I always manage to find something sparkling out of the corner of my eye, something to hold onto. Like a flower that sprouted up in a parking lot, right there in the middle of concrete and garbage.   

Sometimes you find beauty breaking through in the most unlikely places. (Michelle Parise)

I decide to believe there's a silver lining with me always, because I can't lose hope to despair. If I do, despair will swallow me whole and not even taste me.

I don't have a Happily-Ever-After ending for you, sorry

This story doesn't end with White Shirt and I heading off in a flying car.

The story ends but then there's a coda. What can I say? Always a musician at heart. And always with so much to say. That flying car is a reference to the final, inexplicable scene in the movie Grease, if you were wondering!

The name of the excellent book I mention that Birdie is reading is called Mom's House, Dad's House For Kids. I cannot recommend it enough if your children or a child you know is living in two homes. Birdie has found it helpful at every age.

And that is it. Thank you for following my story over 28 chapters! Hard to believe this is the end, but it does have to end.

The final words of Alone: A Love Story. (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.