Alone: A Love Story

Chapter 5: The bomb

Throwing an ashtray, a suspicious umbrella and ... the end.
For the first time in 12 years together, I wake up in our bed. Alone. (Ben Shannon/CBC)
Listen to the full episode17:13

Love as torture

This little vignette came about one day when I was just sitting around talking to the other producer of Alone, Veronica Simmonds.

I was crying about The Man With the White Shirt and explaining to her why I so fiercely believe in love even though it keeps kicking me in the shins.

I told her about my big Italian family and their big Italian ways and I said "I grew up thinking love was torture. That's why my heart is always cranked to MAXIMUM!"

Veronica shouted back "WRITE THAT DOWN!" and I did, right then and there. We recorded it the next day, almost exactly as I'd written it on this scrap of paper below.

I think it's a great start to this very heavy episode. It lays the groundwork for why I throw a glass object clean across a room in the very next vignette.

Music nerd alert!

I can't play commercial music in the podcast, but if I could, the music for this vignette would have been by Italian pop-star Toto Cutugno. He is alllll my parents and their friends listened to when I was a kid — the same songs over and over on a little cassette player in our basement kitchen where they'd hang out.

Toto Cutugno was a star in the '70s & '80s who won a lot of Sanremo Music Festivals and even a Eurovision competition, which is a big deal to Italians and Italian-Canadians having basement parties in Mississauga.

He's come undone

If you care about where we are in the chronology, the rest of this episode takes place at various painful moments over six weeks in January and early February, 2012.

I think this may be the most beautiful and heartbreaking vignette in the whole series. It's really for anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship and has had the kind of argument where you scare yourself, or where you come together at the end of it feeling shaken, but hopeful.

Music nerd alert!

The title is an obvious riff on The Guess Who's, Undun, a classic Canadian jam that Burton Cummings just wails on beautifully (Sheeeeeeeee's commmmmmmmmme unnnnnn-donnnnnnnnnne!!). Apparently he learned how to play flute just for this song. Nice one, Burton!

The song was written by Randy Bachman, who got the idea from a lyric in Bob Dylan's Ballad in Plain D:

Of the two sisters, I loved the young
With sensitive instincts, she was the creative one
The constant scapegoat, she was easily undone
By the jealousy of others around her

Oh, man do I love this beautiful and questionable Dylan song. No offence to The Guess Who, but Ballad in D is just killer (literally — I'm pretty sure he kills the sister in the song). I mean, if you lived your life and wrote only this stanza, you'd be complete:

All is gone, all is gone, admit it, take flight
I gagged in contradiction, tears blinding my sight
My mind it was mangled, I ran into the night
Leaving all of love's ashes behind me

Dylan is a master.

Anyway, shout out to Randy Bachman and his show Vinyl Tap, one of my favourite CBC Radio programs. Vinyl Tap comes up in a vignette called The bear that I wrote and you'll hear one day if we get to make a Season 2 of Alone. Bob Dylan will appear too, in a vignette entitled It Ain't Me. Fingers crossed!

The umbrella

Not sure what I can say here, or if it's worth saying anything. This is where everything really comes undone. This is how it feels to be blind sided. This is how easily the seams of your life can be ripped open in a single moment.

Here's what I can tell you

Writing about what it feels like when you first find out about betrayal is an unbelievably difficult thing. It is impossible to explain almost, and the details of the he said/she said are less important than the impact.

It's not true, it's not true, this can't be true.- Michelle Parise

And so you get this scene, where I describe what it's like, physically, to be hit by a bomb I had no idea was about to detonate.

I know a lot of people will criticize me for talking so openly about my husband having an affair, but it's important for me as an artist to tell my story and truthfully convey the emotional impact that other people's actions can have on our lives.

This is what art is for. 

This is how we move through clouds. We share, we create, we excavate our pain, our very human being-ness, so that we can connect and heal and help.

Maybe you think that's lofty of me. Using art as an excuse to tell salacious stories. I can only say honestly that I'm compelled to tell it, to have it out here in the world so we can talk about why these things destroy some of us and not others.

So we can explore why something as commonplace as an extra-marital affair is still something worth talking about, maybe precisely because it is so commonplace.

I'm not suggesting that there aren't worse things in the world. I'm not ignoring all the terrible things happening right now that are infinitely more tragic than an affair. I am only telling you my small story. That is what this is, it isn't something else.

Music nerd alert!

I quote Radiohead's How to Disappear Completely in this scene when I say to myself, while standing in the snow:

I'm not here. This isn't happening.

It is a devastating song to listen to.

And it's the only soundtrack for the very precise pain of this very precise moment of my life.