Though men have loved me fiercely, into my forties I’ve chosen to stand alone. Maybe I don’t understand how to relax around love—how to stop from clamming up in a lover’s embrace or how to take my share of oxygen in an enclosed space. Maybe I can’t live in the moment because I haven’t learned to grow roots. But maybe someday my one-and-only will transform the mundane into a kaleidoscope of possibilities, and I’ll overcome my fear of standing still.
Because the truth is that I feel lonely when I’m surrounded, so I fight for solitude. Biking along the river trails, the sun and the wind give me hope. Though my legs and lungs battle to drag me uphill, I persevere. Because I know the thrill of air whipping at my face will greet me as I plummet down the other side. Because despite that I’m still the little girl who has forgotten to speak, despite that I’m still broken and bruised, I believe that I can defy the odds and fly.
Maybe I have trouble believing in happily-ever-after because my father never loved me or because the first men to caress me did so without permission. Perhaps it’s because in my late twenties the man I dated suggested I’d be easier to love were I as beautiful as my sister.
Because I can’t determine whether “forever” is a constant state or one that’s ever-changing. Maybe the shadows darkening the moon spill endlessly across eternity. When I was a child, “forever” was timeless. It was the distance between here and the horizon or the sum of flights it took a butterfly to touch down on each blade of grass in our pasture. Now, I suspect “forever” is cyclical. First, it stretches between seeding and harvest. Then sleepily sprawls itself across snowdrifts until spring melt and recycles in perpetuity. Timelessness should be as subtle as the warmth of sunshine on my cheek or the tickle of wind tugging through the tendrils at my neck.
But what if I’m wrong?
In the past, I’ve tackled relationships like fixer-upper houses, doing whatever I please because I’ve left myself no other option. Because sometimes I can’t stop what I’ve started. I start tearing down one wall, then yank out the windows. Before I know it, I’ve ripped apart the deck. My mother, her eyebrow cocked, asks, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” When he lived here, my son shook his head and retreated to his room. I’ve caught glimpses of neighbours’ noses poking through their curtains, spied them snooping through the back-alley dumpster. My lovers-du-jour have teetered between offering to help and throwing in the towel. I’ve demolished until there was nothing left but my personal apocalypse. One step closer to perfection is often a stride toward collapsing the structure.
Nobody knows how to react to my destructive side. Neither do I, so let’s imagine I destroy to make things whole again. Let’s keep pretending I’ve got it all planned out—that I’ll fix cracks in the foundation and correct faulty wiring before I spend years painting murals on the walls.
Because maybe if I could take this metaphor one step further, I’d finally seek counselling. Maybe I could create new neural pathways, learn to bypass triggers that detonate landmines and sparks that char happily-ever-after.
It’s become habit to distance myself from the men I date. Because what if I’m incapable of loving long-term? Less than two months in, I find a plethora of reasons why we’ll never work out. This one settled for average. That one was drowning in debt. Those three begat limp morals and unruly children. The last promised lacklustre passion and little drive.
Maybe I can’t bear to bask in love because I’m afraid I’ll finally blend in. The first boy I loved broke my heart because the bulk of my body was less than ideal. He taught me love is something best kept in the dark.
Because my first husband was too willing to love my tattered parts, my childhood wounds, my resolve to succeed no matter what. His rose-coloured glasses blinded him to the deceit stowed in my scars. Our love was unequal, so how could I stay? Rather than offer my less-than-half-filled cup of love, I chose alone.
Because my last husband wasn’t willing to try, and I didn’t insist. Because our marriage was built on a foundation of half-truths—his unresolved business with his past and my inability to love without conditions.
Because if I stay my independence—my sense of humour and my accomplishments—might crumble away while I sleep. If I get too comfortable, maybe I’ll disappear. Because the stoic mask I’ve perfected throughout the years might come loose—and what if I discover I’m still that little girl who was petrified of the world?
You might not believe that I’m frightened one day I’ll disappear. Or that I’ve been trying to vanish since I remember the shame of existance. The sting of self-loathing started when I spit out my bébé’s tiny fingers. Because Maman had handed me a glass of milk but I wanted my bottle, I’d bitten Bébé’s rubber hand. Maybe this is how I’ve always known there is no getaway from pain. Nothing can reverse the damages.
Because I wanted to be some other girl who was less plump, less good. Less like my mother. Because I wanted to be a boy like my brother, so I could pee standing upright and run as fast as the tumbleweeds summersaulting over the fence. Because I was never as loveable as my sister, but that didn’t save her either. Because by the time I was seven, I daydreamed so deeply I forgot how to form my lips around what happened. Because staring out at the white expanse of the field beyond the treeline helped me escape, helped me believe that eventually I’d make it to the other side without getting caught.
When I was little, I learned punishment is a consequence of telling the truth. When I told my mother that the babysitter had pushed his fingers up between my legs, my father spanked me. Afterward, none of us talked about the crime or the punishment. Everybody, including me, must have forgotten. I became a bud refusing to unfurl. As a mother, now I wonder how this could have happened.
Maybe I’m trying to prove I’ve got options. That nobody can force me to stay. Nobody can deny what my body knows.
Because I’m unsure whether I have trouble trusting men because of the boy who babysat or because of my father. Because part of me still fears admitting the truth will make me unlovable.
I have no problem walking toward, no problem walking away. It’s the staying I can’t seem to get right. I blame the itch in my feet, the gypsy in my blood. Blame it on the passion, the words poised on the tip of my tongue, the magnetic attraction. On repulsion. Am I the only one who feels this magenta pull and crimson push? The pansy-flavoured afterthoughts—pensées—erupt in the aftermath like a romantic poem that leaves me curled in the fetal position on the bathroom mat. Because what if I fail at love again? And what if I succeed?
Because I’m learning to trust that the hand squeezing my knee won’t pulverize my heart nor grow indifferent someday. That his words I love you won’t trap me in a world devoid of colour. That I won’t plump up on love only to find the feelings have withered away. In the past, these risks have hardly seemed worth the possibility of success.
Maybe I’ve simply been waiting for this unforgettable moment so I can admit hope. Because I’ve found the lover whose everything is equal to mine. Who understands the ugliness of the world, yet still believes in its goodness. Who makes the world a better place by battling one injustice at a time. The person with whom I’d gladly grow old. I can picture us rocking on the porch by the setting sun, we laugh and reminisce about our shenanigans and the chances we were willing to take.
Because I’m ready to admit that I’ve already taken a final leap into love. Because this time it isn’t lopsided. Because we both insist on revealing our truths with the lights on. I refuse to find a reason to fail because it’s time to stop being afraid. This time I’m ready to be vulnerable in love and braced to be alright.
Because, despite the parched and rocky soil of the past, my beauty’s been blooming inside all along, and I’m no longer going to repress it.