It’s been a year and a half since we parted, and I know I said some mean things in those emotional days toward the end. But I’ve been thinking about you a lot today. I saw a photo of you on Facebook, with that bright blue sky and sharp sunlight that I remember so well from the days when everything was going right. And suddenly I was lost in a thousand memories of the good times we had together.
Putting some distance between us has been good for me. There were times when I loved your temperate spirit and tidy habits, but I hated that 1000-yard stare you’d get in your eyes when the talk turned to politics. There’s so much about you that’s amazing and good, but sometimes I wonder if you even notice how time has changed you, hardened your heart.
But today, I’m missing you. I am remembering you on the last July 1 we had together, when I sat on the shores of Esquimalt Lagoon in the familiar chilled sunshine of early summer on the West Coast looking out at all the red and white shirts, umbrellas, flags and beach paraphernalia that people had brought to celebrate your birthday. I couldn’t have loved you more that day. The truth is, I was already thinking about leaving you, but that was the day I knew there were parts of me that would always be yours.
I’m living with someone else now, as you’ve probably heard. I couldn’t have picked someone less like you if I’d tried. There you are with your squeaky-clean parks, safe roads and campaigns to stop teens from using tanning beds, and he’s chucking his garbage out the window and running around with guns and drugs. You’re stressing out over the FSA scores of your well-educated young people in their fully equipped, competent schools, and my new guy is shoving 90 kids into a dishevelled classroom with an untrained teacher and counting it as a major win if they make it through Grade 6.
I admit, I do like a bad boy. There’s something thrilling about being with someone who feels a bit dangerous, about always finding yourself in situations that are right on the edge of uncomfortable yet at the same time, leave you feeling completely alive. Today, though, I’m missing your moderate ways, and how I always knew where I stood with you. Yes, your predictability and need to control drove me completely mad sometimes, but I always knew you’d be there if I needed you.
This new guy – not so much. I saw a bad bus accident last week and understood in a flash that if I were ever in an accident like that, he’d never be there for me. He’d wish me luck and then throw me in the back of a passing pickup truck headed toward the nearest broken-down, unfunded public hospital, and that would be the last time I’d cross his mind. It shames me to admit this, Canada, but I’d come limping home to you.
It’s exhilarating to ride down scary roads in the dark in the back of a pickup truck, with no idea what might happen next. But standing in your ample wilderness, unafraid that the guy coming toward me is eyeing up my camera or that I’m about to stumble upon an illegal dump or cocaine drop-off zone – well, that’s its own kind of exhilaration.
Your political correctness got to me sometimes, it’s true. But your heart is just and good, and I love that you were out there with gay rights even while so much of the world is still dragging its feet on such a fundamental fairness. There have been times when I’ve overheard my new man making homophobic comments, and I know I could never last with someone like that, even if he does embrace life with a vigour and sense of fun that I rarely saw in you.
O Canada, I wish I could lie down in your cool lap right now, enjoying all the silence that coast-to-coast noise bylaws and dedicated parkland can buy. I wish I was sitting at your multicultural buffet right now, loading my plate with sushi, salt and pepper squid, lasagne, baklava, pho, perogies, blintzes and French pastries.
My bad boy eats beans and tortillas pretty much every day. I admire his ability to get by on the things he can actually grow, but today I am dreaming of your wildly ethnic palate and generous food-import budget.
I’m a wanderer, Canada. I think you always knew that. I don’t imagine you were that surprised when I left, what with the problems we’d been starting to have. There’s part of me that wishes I could tell you that I’m done with my dallying and ready to come home to you, but there’s another part of me that has never felt more alive since I put you behind me.
But you are in my soul forever. I had to get away from you to appreciate your sheer functionality and all the green, clean spaces and mannered cities you have wrought with your ordered ways. When I think of “civil society,” I think of you. I love your banks, your hospitals, your 7-day return policies. Your internet speeds are amazing.
Happy birthday, dear one. This new life is changing me, and I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to being a couple again the way we once were. But I’ll always sleep easiest in your arms.
Photo by Jody Paterson – All Rights Reserved
First posted at A Closer Look