I watched Long Time Running last night, with the adorabeasts in my bed, which made it all hurt a little less. And there we were, slow dancing to “Scared” for three or four seconds, singing the lyrics. My head on his strong shoulder, against his Phantom Power shirt. We’d ridden bikes to the arena that August, just a year and a bit ago, sweat of the humid city summer rolling down our backs. My hair was curly-frizzy, the hair he has left was matted with sweat. On his wrist, the watch we bought on our only trip to NYC when things were starting to get really bad and the fissures in our relationship started to resemble the giant gaps in the ground of a Roadrunner cartoon. The cliff was impending, but I thought we could “Meep, meep!” our way across.
I am wearing a Dia de los Muertos type skull tank that gringas like me get when in Mexico. We were in Sayulita for the wedding of our dear friends when I got it, and in terrible shape. He was living in another city for work (and to get away from me) and I was paying for it all. At the wedding he got ridiculously drunk and forgot that we needed to get our kids home, because our sick kid gets migraines if she doesn’t sleep properly. My resentment grew with every minute that he did nothing to get us home, because he was having fun and his fun always came before the rest of us. Then it started raining on our sleeping kids while he guffawed with an old friend and I completely lost my shit on him, because there were no cabs and no way for me to walk all the way to Gringo Hill from where we were with two sleeping kids. I should burn that tank top.
Gord Downie died this week and I am faced with a gaping space in my soul. Every single Hip song for me is a reflection of us. Every guitar lick, every lyric takes me to a specific scene in our marriage. Trouble at the Henhouse was released as our friendship was burgeoning and was frequently played throughout our marriage (you can read an entire post set to “Flamenco” here). Phantom Power was released right when we started dating and in many ways, it’s the most definitive Hip album. “Poets,” “Bobcaygeon,” “Fireworks,” all on the same disc. “Escape is at Hand for the Travellin’ Man” was his anthem, and I never saw it as a song about bands passing each other in concert halls, but part of me wondered if Theo saw it as the song which represented things I never knew about that happened when he was living in London. That song brings me right into sunny rental apartment living rooms with their mix of IKEA and hand-me-down furniture, movie posters gracing the walls. “Those melodies come back to me… At times beyond our heartbeat.”
Music @ Work was released the year we got married and moved into the concrete box in the sky downtown, overlooking the CN Tower. Our song was “Stay” — “You’re a fighter and a lover. And there’s no one up above her. So, stay. Stay.” But he couldn’t stay. He tried. I have days where I believe he tried his hardest and days where I think he could have tried harder, but today it’s the former. He wasn’t cut out for marriage, to give himself completely to another. And in the future if he manages to change that I will be bitter and happy for him in the same breath.
In Violet Light came next and that’s when we started to diverge. Theo was still committed to the Hip, but I was starting to wane. I don’t know why. If I reflect on it, I think it would be because Theo might read this and not think of me with any of those songs or albums. His relationship was one-sided. Just between him and Gord. Where as I saw it as more of an infinity symbol, a symbiotic relationship between my love for Theo and my love for the music. The music was the soundtrack for our playing house, where as for Theo, the music defined HIM. “O’ for a good life, we just might have to weaken,” sang Gord, and we took his word. Maybe it was OK to allow for some space. Have our separate lives and converge at the end of the day to share privately what we’d experienced, who we were when it was just the two of us.
In their consistent way, the Hip released an album every two years. I recall nothing of In Between Evolution in 2004. I was pregnant with our first and so much in my own head that year. Wikipedia says it hit Number #1 on the Canadian charts the week it came out, but I don’t know a single song. By the time World Container was released in 2006, we had a baby who’d had a stroke, and a big grown-up mortgage in a new part of town with no friends there, and I was working part-time and feeling immense guilt about it. I had a two-year-old mom blog and was starting to overshare online to bigger and bigger audiences. And suddenly my separate life was no longer about going to the movies after work with my best gay and then coming home to retell the plot, but about living a life online while baby was sleeping, a life that he felt too far removed from to even care about. Worse, he felt super uncomfortable about where the internet was taking me and how much of my deepest, darkest thoughts were being shared with complete strangers.
On the other hand, I was feeling an incredible sense of community online. Motherhood was a lonely experience in a lot of ways, and reading honest accounts from the trenches was wonderful. I loved trying to be funny in my descriptions of the day to day. I loved the raw way I wrote and felt myself getting better and better with each post, my commenters encouraging me to keep going. But Theo does not like feeling like anyone knows anything about him, which I believe is part of the reason he didn’t find success as an artist.
Gord Downie splayed his insides out in song. A good artist does this, tells their truth, in their own way, revealing themselves in a way that we can all relate to. I was doing the same in my writing, but I suppose my ego started to come into play as well. With every accolade I began to get bolder in what I would share. I carved a niche for myself, writing about sex and arguments in a way I should have considered a bit more before publishing. Theo asked me to stop. He would never be comfortable with it. And so in time I began to hold back. And in holding back, I began to lose interest in writing.
When We Are the Same came out in 2009, we were two kids deep. I’d been getting help for my PTSD after my traumatic first birth. I’d gotten a do-over with my second baby and the panic attacks were decreasing. But I was working four-days-a-week at a startup, and with the constant sleep deprivation, my tendency to being capital ADD-distracted was making me struggle at work and home. I felt Theo judged me harshly in those days. I would constantly ask him to cut me some slack. The house was a mess and I couldn’t keep up. He was home with no one else at home most days before going off to work nights and felt that we left everything for him to clean up and he was mad about it. I was angry that he was home all the time with all this time to himself and things weren’t even or fair at all. Couldn’t he JUST CUT ME SOME SLACK?!
I shit-talked myself a lot at during that time, and without writing to process it, I was lost. That’s why I’m here, writing secretly under a pseudonym. Blogs are my moleskins. I need them. I began to fall deeper and deeper into despair. Sure, there was still a lot of light and joy during that time. I’m sure if I go check Facebook, there are photos of smiling faces and happy memories and trips to the beach with adorable little people. But the fissure was widening, and I mistakenly thought that once the kids were older, I’d be able to get out some Crazy Glue and some ratchet ropes and pull the whole thing back together.
In the background of our old rickety house with the creaky floorboards and the crumbling plaster walls, Gord sang, “Who are you? What is it with you? Who are you?” over and over on “The Last Recluse” and I struggled to answer.
You broke my heart, from the start
Made me work, work so hard
to get where I am
to where I’d let you do it all again.
Who are you? Who are you?
What do I do? What do I do, without you?
Eight years later, I am attempting to answer.