I can’t tell you when things became as toxic as they were between us; what I can tell you is that our relationship had devolved into a poisonous cohabitation of tortured matrimony.
I have spent the greater part of today thinking about love and romance. Or rather, the lack thereof. I didn’t wake-up wanting to think this way, it just sort of happened. While on my way to get morning coffee, I witnessed a couple walking with fingers intertwined and helpless smiles adorned to their faces. They were in love; it was easy to see, even easier to feel as they passed by. I couldn’t help but smile, love is after all a beautiful thing. As I stood at the counter, waiting for my order to come to fruition, I overheard one of the barista’s remark effusively on how sweet her boyfriend was to one of her coworkers. She was showing her something on her phone as a form of proof of the aforementioned proclamation. The barista was young… this was more likely a display of infatuation over that of lasting love, but she was happy nonetheless.
When I left the shop and rejoined the relative bustle of my neighbourhood, my mind couldn’t help but wander to times since gone. I remembered my infatuation and its evolution towards love. When looked at through the lens of retrospection, I am unable to say with vehemence that I truly did love the girl I was with… perhaps the idea of her more than who she really was. Either way, she was my introduction to the world of superfluous flowers and overindulged chocolates. She showed me the difference between fucking and making love. She gave me the gift of knowing what it was like to feel wanted. To feel yearned for, even if just ephemerally so.
I found a quiet little bench resting beneath the shade of a swaying tree. I sat down and sipped from my cup, feeling the warm kiss of coffee against my lips. I pulled out my book and intended to read from it. Anthony Bourdain’s: Kitchen Confidential. A book I have been enjoying for its uncompromising honesty. He was a brilliant writer with a sharp eye for perception.
It was my mind that refused the further ingestion of his words, I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of love and romance. This could be in part because I have recently rejoined the perfidious world of online dating. I haven’t met with anyone or gone on any dates, but I have dipped my toe in the shallow end of the pool. Sometimes I think I’m ready to date, other times I think… fuck that!
Well, as the theme of the day would have it, I looked up in time to see another passing couple. This pair was less Hallmark and more… Jerry Springer. Through quieted vituperations they jawed back and forth with one another, casting the occasional sideways glare to see if they had unwittingly welcomed any curious gapes from onlookers and paper-readers alike. Now this was a couple I could relate to. Much of my abysmal love life has been spent in conflict—if I am being completely honest… I couldn’t help but smile at this couple, too.
When they had faded from earshot, I heard another injection of scorned feminine soprano. A ghostly echo from within my ears… Miranda. My ex.
I thought back to one night in particular: A hot, muggy summer night. We had been on a tentative cease fire with each other and had acquiescingly tossed the idea of watching a movie together. I was okay with this as it meant that we would not have to speak. Sadly… turns out, she wanted to speak… or, yell, as it were. A resurgence of name calling and angered gesticulations had silenced the movie completely. I can’t even remember how the fight started, but I recall vividly the ferocity of it. Her usually unblemished forehead became enamored by crawling lines of consternation and annoyance. Her voice elevated into a near-deafening shriek. She became more and more unhinged when she took note of how calm I was. I think I was beyond the point of feeling by this time, so her pointed insults and saliva-laden speak was of little concern to me. I recall simply wanting to maneuver passed her so that I could leave our house and run off to a pub or bar somewhere—the thought of loud music and rabbles of drunk people seemed much more appealing than one more moment with her.
When I made my intention known to her, she initiated an arsenal of character attacks and job-related insults in hopes of dissolving my relative calm. I was able to fend off the initial wave, I’d been through this before. However, I was halted in my tracks when she came thundering in from behind me, pushing herself into view. She was holding a jacket—one of my work jackets. She must have gone to the closet behind me at record speed when I had stepped around her and then returned with this garment in hand. Its significance will become clear to you in a moment, but to me in that moment, it was undeniably crystal.
“Look…! Look, Hero… you fucking loser… LOOK!” She was thrusting the bright yellow and reflective coat towards me with each hostile breath. I was sinking into myself. I knew what that was and I had thought that we had thrown it out…
This was as I said, a work jacket. A piece of gear that I wore when performing my duties as a paramedic. One of those said duties came in the form of a death confirmation. There had been a suicide in-behind some dumpsters and the police had called for paramedics to come and declare the individual deceased. This call was in the midst of one of our winter’s worst cold snaps. I was wearing said jacket, buttoned and zipped to its fullest extent. When I approached the slain body from behind the capacious trash canisters, I slipped on some ice and fell to the ground. Due to the cramped nature of that environment, I was uninjured. A little jarred, but otherwise scot-free. It wasn’t until I had emerged from the bins and informed the police that the person left behind was indeed dead, that I noticed the ramifications of my tumble. The individual from behind the bins had died by a self-inflicted injury… one that would leave behind blood, brain and tissue. I had slipped and fallen into pieces of the recently departed. Those pieces had stapled themselves to the outer shell of my jacket… the jacket that Miranda now held within her hand.
Why had she kept it? I swear we got rid of that thing…?
She continued to joust at me with this soiled wear. Each time she did, she berated me with continued claims that I was a “horrible medic… you couldn’t save anyone, you fucking loser! I should be fucking a real medic… not you and your pathetic dick!”
I guess our courtship was more Jerry Springer, too…
I pushed this line of remembrance away and walked around a little to burn off some of the emerging tension. I could smell blood and taste human waste. The scent and flavor became intolerable, I reached down to consume more of my coffee… empty… of course!
Fortunately, I was nearby one of my favorite places; I went inside and pulled up a chair. A captivating waitress was working behind the counter.
“What can I get’cha?”
“Coffee… please.” The first few gulps from my cup were of nothing but the black tar of caffeine, anything to wash away the memory of taste that lingered within my mouth.
Another server soon appeared from behind the counter; a woman I know relatively well. She smiled and waved. I wiggled the corner of my mouth into an ascended smirk of acknowledgment. I may not be good at love or romance… but I am rather capable of allowing myself to get lost in the serenity of a pretty smile… and that’s just fine by me.
In case you were wondering, the jacket is gone. As is the girl. So the pretty waitress isn’t the only one smiling today. There is something remarkably lovely about the idea of peace and closure… it allows you to love yourself… and that’s a pretty good fucking romance!