It took five-and-a-half years to realize I had fallen in love with the man who would be my husband the first moment I met him.
It was late October of 1998. I was sitting on the end of my bed in my room, listening to the quiet. It was something I had taken to doing when I was home alone. There was a serial rapist trolling my neighbourhood at the time, and not that many days before I had parted the blinds on my bedroom window to see a man fitting the rapist’s description staring back at me from less than two feet away. From then on, I did not watch television or listen to music or run the microwave. I sat on my bed and listened for the feet of a man who might try to steal my freedom.
On this one particular evening, while I sat listening in the dark, my mind wandered off on its own, playing back memories, when it settled on the face of a friend of mine that I had first met in the summer of 1993. We lived in different cities but met up for drinks whenever he came to town. The thought of him, without warning, dropped my heart into my stomach, and I fought the urge to vomit.
He is engaged to another woman, I thought.
I had no reason to think this, but it wormed itself, however unreasonably, into my brain. It had been at least a year since I had last seen him. We never spoke on the telephone or e-mailed each other. There was no point of contact to direct this idea, yet I knew it to be true. My heart was strung with his in a way I had not previously realized, and it broke me. The moment I discovered my love was the moment I knew it would not be mine. I lay in bed and let hot tears cool in the cups of my ears.
I spent the next two months wading through heartache and feared for my sanity. I could not know what I knew, but I felt I knew it all the same. I considered making an appointment with a psychiatrist. Food lost its joy for me. I drank in order to fall sleep. I told no one what I knew. My dreams only spoke of loss. I despaired.
Then, on Christmas Eve, I gathered enough courage to call his mother’s house. I knew that he would likely be in town for Christmas, and I needed to confirm my broken heart. I needed to know.
“Is Aidan home for Christmas?” I asked. I white-knuckled the receiver.
“Aidan? Oh, you just missed them,” his mother said.
“Yes. They just left to go to her mother’s,” she said.
Them. I barely touched Christmas dinner the next day at my parents’ house. I thought of Them. I thought of Her. Part way through the meal, I excused myself to weep in the bathroom. I felt like I no longer owned myself. I felt I could never be whole. I was an empty thing.
This all sounds so melodramatic, but this is really how it was. I was a small, cold stone at the bottom of a river. The love that was meant to fill me hollowed me out. Life was something that happened without me.
While I was shelving books at work one afternoon in July, I realized that I was simply too exhausted by my grief to bear it anymore. I could not let this love run away from me. Even if he was going to be married to someone else, I had to at least maintain our friendship. Even if I could not have him, my life could not be without him.
I was dialing his number within a few minutes, and, before I could back out of it, I asked if I could come to stay with him for a few days during my upcoming vacation. He said yes, and I was so thrilled that I hung up before I thought to ask about his living situation. The facts barely mattered. I was running on the fumes of possibility. A week later, I showed up at his door, dearly hoping that I was insane, that I had been in the throws of grand delusion.
With my friend Murray in tow for moral support, we knocked on Aidan’s door. When he answered, Murray scanned the front entry, leaned in, and whispered in my ear.
“I don’t see any women’s shoes,” he said. My heart sped.
Later, over beer and bar snacks, Aidan told me that he had been engaged until two weeks before. He and she had begun dating the previous October, the month my stomach consumed my heart, and they had raced through domesticity and engagement before he realized it couldn’t be. They were done, and I was not, indeed, delusional. My heart had known what my mind could not. This is how I know about the actuality of magic.
The next night, he leaned his lips into mine under a cold mix of moon and streetlight, and my life began.
As I prepared a mix of nuts and chocolate with a side of tea for Aidan last night, I thought back to that horrible evening over eleven years ago when I sat alone in the dark listening for a violent thief and found the depth of my love for a man in the ache of its loss. It was rare and miraculous then, even as it hollowed me out, and it is more so now as we continue to realize how we are strung together.
Palinode at the Beetroot Schmutzie @ Flickr