The 1,763-Day Weekend
Part 12 — The Snowdon Wars of 2009

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Psychological WarfareWhen I had moved to Montréal in April ’08, my dear friend Cleopatrick was in a bad way: he was between relationships, between jobs, between residences, between everything imaginable, quite frankly. However, he was so incredibly generous with me, coming all the way to Halifax to help me pack and move, and then settle into my new home in Montréal as I had to return to work as quickly as possible.

Because I wanted NowEx to finish his honours thesis, I figured it would be at least a year before he’d be coming to Montréal for a prolonged stay. One evening, Cleopatrick and I were chatting about how he really should move back to Montréal and about roommates. Long story short, I made him an offer: since I was having to pay for the apartment and the utilities anyway, why not have him move into the living room and he can pay for the food, do the cooking, and mop the place up once in a while?

Since that amounted to a lot less than getting a studio apartment, he accepted, and since NowEx and him got along so well, NowEx thought it was a good idea, too.

Despite there being no honours thesis in sight, NowEx and I had agreed he should come for an extended stay in Montréal starting late-June ’09. Since it wasn’t for his permanent stay, I figured we could manage the three of us in the apartment. Granted, with someone using the living room as his bedroom, we eventually would have had to change some things, like getting a TV in our bedroom and stuff like that. Of course, Cleopatrick had understood for the get-go that if it had been for NowEx’s permanent stay, that would have been the trigger event for his next move.

Except that we didn’t have time to start working on those changes before NowEx declared war on Cleopatrick. He resented his presence; he didn’t like his cooking; he felt Cleopatrick had no right to the groceries we had bought; he even didn’t like the thought that Cleopatrick was using the same bar of soap as us in the shower.

Did I see that one coming? Of course not. However, I want you to go back to the “Signs and Symptoms” section of that article in Wikipedia, for as much as Wikipedia can be trusted. With hindsight, it all makes sense to me now.

Yup! Now I’m remembering that time NowEx and I were seated at the kitchen table having dinner he’d prepared. He had made us a pitcher of agua de fresa to drink along with dinner. He poured us both a glass, but then, as he tried to place the quasi-full pitcher back on the table without looking at what he was doing, he missed and it splashed all over the kitchen floor.

“¡Puta tu madre!”

Okay, now it’s my mom’s fault and she ought to be fucked! (Kidding. I know that it’s a common expletive in Spanish. But it has to be one of the ugliest ones.)

It wasn’t just the “¡Puta tu madre!” part that was upsetting me, though. It’s that he turned verbally violent as he trashed things about and kept repeating the expletive over and over and over! I was just trying to stay calm and mop up the mess, but there was so much agua on the floor that, at first, it was just sloshing around. “That mop is no good!” he screamed at me. “You never have the right stuff in this house!”

Like the towels he deemed warned and shabby. Like the common laundry room in the basement he deemed unfit. Like the food that, well, wasn’t like in Mexico. Like the lack of a blender in the kitchen, which I eventually got at Value Village to shut him up.

I dropped the mop and went to sit in the living room. I was shaking. His violence was breathtaking and he kept screaming “¡Puta tu madre! ¡Puta tu MADRE!”, so I decided to just let him mop up the mess on his own.

If he could be like that for such a trivial accident of his own doing, what on earth would be in store for me the next time I did something he viewed practically as a mortal sin?

Was it any wonder, then, that a few days before, I had only one line that kept going through my head when he’d sent me on a fool’s errand? He had it in his head, based on some article he’d read somewhere on the Internet and believed without questioning, that Canadians were complacent in trusting their municipal water sources. In Mexico, of course, when using tap water that’s not boiled first, like when cleaning fruit and vegetables, it’s necessary to put a few drops of some kind of chemical to disinfect the water. We’d been eating a lot of fresh fruit, but he claimed it had to be the water that was causing him some intestinal discomfort. So, he sent me to fetch a little bottle of that chemical which nobody has ever heard of around here because …well, duh! …the water’s safe!

Oh, what was the line that kept going through my head as I was driving around on that fool’s errand, you ask?

You better find that shit, Maurice, or there’ll be hell to pay!

Finally, I found a Vietnamese pharmacist who understood what I was looking for, but of course didn’t have any. Maybe she saw the desperation that was registered in my face, for she calmly explained that if NowEx had concerns about the water here, which he shouldn’t, he could always put a bit of salt or vinegar in the water he used to wash fruit or veggies.

I got back home after being out hours longer than NowEx expected. I put away whatever else I had purchased and reported back what the pharmacist had said. Then, because I was so upset, I took refuge on the balcony.

He joined me after a few minutes. He mumbled some words of apology. I couldn’t stand to look at him but I finally did.

When in Rome, do as the Romans,” I said. “You better learn that quick.” I couldn’t believe I actually had to say that, considering how he practically REQUIRED me not to stand out while in Mexico and to do as the Mexicans. But even afterwards, it seemed every other sentence started, either implicitly or explicitly, with “In Mexico, …” Of course, I would have been put in the dog house if I’d kept saying “In Canada…” whenever I was in — dare I be naughty? — Mexicolandia.

What’s more, perhaps what I failed to understand is that, in Mexicolandia — or, more specificially, with this Mexicolandian — a husband is expected to be his spouse’s constant organizer. Despite having enough trouble remembering to screw my head back on right in the morning, I was expected by NowEx to remember everything for him: bringing the sunscreen, his sunglasses, even when to take his medicine. My failure to remember the things on his to-do or to-bring lists would invariably earn me the reproach of “not remembering about him,” which was his poorly veiled way not only of accusing me of thinking only about myself but also to project his failings onto me.

So, when the Snowdon Wars of 2009 weren’t explosive outbursts, they were, for me, like a low-grade but recurring toothache — the kind where you curse yourself when you forget about it and then bite into something hard on the affected tooth. Except that my toothache was forgetting to remember his junk, which would bring the pain in the form of his accusation of my selfishness. But clearly I had become numb and I took it all (although wincing each time) because I had long abandoned common sense or the realization that his accusations were groundless and were playing right into my own insecurities.
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The 1,763-Day Weekend
Part 13 — Brokemyback Vacation

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The Last StrawThe proverbial camel’s back got broken during our trip to Halifax later that summer. Every minute of that trip was wretched when it wasn’t ghastly. So I’m really having to be selective here.

It was my summer vacation. My mother wouldn’t be in Moncton at that time, but I hadn’t been back to Halifax since I’d moved to Montréal some 16 months earlier. I missed my friends back there! Plus, since we’d been spending a lot of money — we just had to — this vacation had to be modest. I truly hate(d) bringing up the topic of money (again), but the fact is that it’s inevitable. Money, or lack thereof, dictates our choices. Period, full stop.

Let’s go back to the point-form format because I can’t think of a better way to get through this crap. And remember: This is only a selection of events because, I tell ya, the entire trip was a lark a minute and I’ve suppressed some of the details.

  • Let’s Speak Spanish Because Dumbo Won’t Understand
    NowEx never “got” the Queen of Sheba and, as a consequence, he never liked her. In fact, he despised her, this despite how generous and kind she was towards him (and us for hosting our wedding) and despite how, as she told me much later, there were things about him she didn’t like but overlooked for my sake (for “Mine Maurice,” as she calls me). Therefore, he really didn’t like that I’d arranged for us to stay with the Queen and the Grand Poobah of Culinary Delights while in Halifax. He would have preferred that we stayed with the Queen’s daughter, La Chelita, but I knew she didn’t have a spare couch for two and, besides, as much as I love having her visit me in Montréal, it just made more sense for us to “hold court” with my pal, the Queen.

    NowEx had had an enormous bee in his bonnet over Cleopatrick the day before we were to leave and had decided to go cool off his heels up the hill on the grounds of the Oratoire Saint Joseph. Back home that evening and while I was at my computer in the office, he took the laptop to the bedroom and called via Skype his roommate and good friend back in Mexico City — ironically, the same guy who’d spoiled my Skype/wedding surprise.

    They were chatting away in Spanish as usual and not at all speaking in hushed tones, even though NowEx was essentially complaining about how that vile Cleopatrick “molested” him (inside joke for those of you who know some Spanish) as well as how he dreaded our upcoming trip — stuff like what a horrible place Halifax is, how far it is, how we’d be staying with the Queen (the emphasis he placed on the Queen’s name left no doubt about how much he disliked her), but then what was he to do: it’s Maurice’s vacation, after all. In other words, NowEx didn’t even attempt to speak in hushed tones because he assumed, because I still had trouble speaking back in Spanish, that I didn’t understand what he was saying.

    That stung. Badly. It confirmed to me that, sometimes — maybe even most times — he was very contemptuous of me.

  • Yore My Huzband!
    We got in the car very early the next morning and he was hardly speaking: the bee in his bonnet over Cleopatrick had come back with a vengeance, and that was evident the moment he got out of bed. I think it was all over something silly like some yogurt or cheese Cleopatrick had eaten but that NowEx had planned to take along on the trip.

    Anyway, and I’m not making this up: for one hour, until well beyond Saint-Hyacinthe, he screamed/lectured at me in the car. Remember his hyper-happy state as we were leaving Toronto? Same thing, only in reverse, and five times more intense if you can imagine that.

    Of all the crap he spewed out, there’s one line he repeated several times almost like a punctuation mark before the next volley, a line that I’ll always hear resonating in my ear until the day I die: “Yore my huzband!” He was forcing an ultimatum on me as I was busy driving: he wanted me to call Cleopatrick as soon as we got to Halifax to tell him that he was kicked out of the apartment as of immediately and he had to be out by the time we got back to Montréal. In other words, he was forcing me to choose between a good friend of more than 15 years and him — my huzband. Now before you pass judgement and declare that maybe he had a point, I want you to consider two things:

    1. Forcing an ultimatum can never good, especially while the forced party is driving 100 km/h down a highway to reach a certain point at an agreed-upon time (see below).
    2. I wasn’t blind to the fact that he was clearly trying to cut me off all my friends, while I had to embrace (or reject) all of his friends (depending on his opinion of them on any given day).

    The only word I got in edgewise was at the very beginning, just as I was stepping out of the car to get myself a coffee at the Tim Horton’s down our street. “Look,” I said, “if you don’t want to go on this trip because we’re staying at the Queen’s and Halifax is such a dreary place and what not, then I’m not forcing you to come and I can reverse a block to bring you back home.” But of course he refused that option, as it would have meant him staying with Cleopatrick, without me there to prevent him from murdering him (although I hasten to add that he didn’t actually threaten to do that …I’m just exercising my artistic license and using a little imagination).

  • A Lovely Family Gathering …NOT!
    The reason my mother would not be in Moncton is because my brother and sister-in-law in Moncton were coming to stay in our apartment in Montréal and were driving her up to Rivière-du-Loup so she could visit her sister. Given that my other brother lives in Grand Falls, we’d decided as a family to all meet at the Irving Big Stop just outside that town. This was going to be the first time my family (except my mom) would be meeting NowEx, so we were both feeling a little tense about that.

    My Moncton brother and S.I.L. had stayed at the apartment the previous July while I was in Mexico. They not only got to meet Cleopatrick, but they had had a really good time with him and they became very fond of him. In fact, by this point, even though Cleopatrick wasn’t my partner, much less my huzband, my family started to view him not merely as my friend but as a distant relative.

    Now remember the ultimatum I’d been given driving out of Montréal? I knew for sure as we were getting closer to Grand Falls that my mom, both my S.I.L.s and my Moncton brother would be asking after Cleopatrick. What’s more, I wondered if it would be feasible for me to take my Moncton brother aside and talk to him about what had transpired a few hours back. But in the end, I didn’t.

    Meanwhile, a few weeks before, the Harper Conservative government had decided to impose visas on visiting Mexicans due to their country being the largest single source of illegitimate refugee claimants to Canada. NowEx was furious when the news broke; I didn’t agree with it, but I saw a speck of a reason why it came about. Minutes before we were to arrive at the Big Stop — I was still tense about how Cleopatrick’s name was probably going to be brought up — NowEx declared, “They better not talk about that visas on Mexico stuff, because I could get angry.”

    But of course, my Grand Falls brother, going out of his way to make polite conversation with the brother-in-law he had just met, asked him if and how the visa thing was affecting him. “You’re lucky you got into the country before it got imposed,” my brother kept repeating. I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to get him to drop the topic and I didn’t dare look at NowEx. It was only last summer that I told my Moncton brother and S.I.L. how tense that dinner had been for me, to which my S.I.L. said, “You know, I felt that there was something wrong, but I didn’t know what it was.”

    Oh, and by the way, yes, of course the family did ask after Cleopatrick, except that may have helped turn the thermostat down a notch. The next morning at the Queen’s, NowEx came into the bathroom as I was stepping out of the shower. He suggested I not call Cleopatrick; instead, the ultimatum got amended so that I could tell him in person when we’d get back to Montréal and give him as much time as he needed to find a place. That was awfully big of him, wasn’t it? But all kidding aside, I always wondered if my family, without knowing, caused that amendment to the ultimatum.

  • 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall
    I like driving and I’m pretty relaxed behind the wheel. I also have pretty good endurance, as demonstrated by the fact that I was driving from Montréal to Halifax in a single day and managed to resist the urge despite all that had happened that day to crash the car in order to put an abrupt but decisive end to what was already turning out to be the most miserable vacation of my life.

    For I failed to tell you that we arrived much later than expected at the family lunch because NowEx had insisted that we stop at a gas station before Grand Falls so that he could comb his hair — in other words, to powder his nose — before meeting the family. Okay fine, he was nervous about meeting the in-laws; I’ll give him that much… But the thing is, I’d married a dude …or so I thought …and here I was realizing that I was having to put up with the same whims as my brothers who’d married chicks! But now that I’ve admitted to having had that thought, I don’t want anybody to think that this realization on my part became the grounds for my divorce. Please simply file under “Just Sayin’.”

    Then, back on the road after the family lunch, he was afflicted by a toothache and we had to stop again in Woodstock to find a drugstore where I got him the same stuff one would apply in a baby’s mouth when it’s teething. (Actually, the thought that I had to take care of a big baby is making me giggle right now.) All this to say we had less than an hour’s daylight left by the time we reached the Irving Big Stop in Salisbury, just outside Moncton, so our ETA in Halifax had been blown clear out of the water; therefore, we stopped for gas and I called our hosts to give them our new ETA.

    It normally takes just under three hours to cover Moncton to Halifax. It had already been a long, long day. NowEx suggested doing some Spanish drills to keep me alert — numbers, Q&As, stuff like that — and I agreed. I mean, why not? Except I hadn’t counted on doing that for all of the next three hours.

    He simply didn’t know when to stop! Anyone with even only an ounce of empathy would have been able to see that the game was starting to adversely affect the driver’s driving (not to mention how a driver’s pleas to stop should always be respected). But then I remembered how he’d been fired from a tutoring gig a few months back in Mexico.

    His pupil had been some Yankee VP at the General Motors plant in Mexico City. Since the material that was being used for study purposes was a song, NowEx had insisted that the VP sing the lyrics as a means of picking up the new vocabulary in its intended context. The VP refused to sing, but NowEx insisted. And insisted.

    I had to bite my tongue when NowEx reported back to me during one of our Skype conversations how he couldn’t comprehend how his behaviour had led not only to his firing but also to his (former) employer almost losing its entire contract with GM. He thought that the VP was just another uptight Yankee cabrón who got off on throwing his weight around, oppressing workers, and generally stirring up shit. And here I was, driving at about 10 p.m. a few months later after being on the road since 7 a.m. that day, and being forced to count into the thousands in Spanish and answering, in full sentences, questions like “What is the capital city of Honduras?”

    I would love to meet that Yankee VP from GM to share this anecdote. I think I had it 10 times worse than him because [a] I was a captive audience and [b] I couldn’t call back Mexico to ask that my husband be fired like he could call the school to ask that he never again see that pushy, rude, long-haired tutor. Brownie points for him for not signing, too.

  • Racism Versus Assholism
    We went for fish and chips at what used to be my neighbourhood joint when I lived in Halifax, which Muammar Gonedaffy had bought out a few years before I left. At the time, the restaurant was still housed on the bottom floor of a two-storey house, the top floor being Muammar’s residence. One had to go up the same stairs leading to the apartment to use the washroom, so the standing courtesy, even though the washroom sign was above the door, was to ask before going up. But NowEx, having to pee badly and whose attitude in general seems to be that the world is a bowl of cherries for his picking, dashed to the door leading upstairs.

    Since I’d left Halifax, Muammar “imported” and married himself a wife from Lebanon, who was working behind the counter. I was walking toward the counter to greet Muammar when Wifey hollered toward NowEx whom she didn’t recognize, “Where are you going? You can’t go up there!” Muammar quickly intervened: “It’s okay, it’s my friend Maurice,” so Wifey went from pitbull to all smiles and waved to NowEx to go ahead.

    When we sat to eat our food, I could see that NowEx had slumped into one of his furious moods. “That racist bitch,” he started. “To make it worse, she’s an immigrant herself. But when she was told that I was with ‘Maurice,’ everything was okay then.”

    This is one incident NowEx never forgot and never let go, but with which I never agreed with him. “As far as I’m concerned, it was a case of two immigrants in my country behaving badly toward each other,” I told him. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it; however, NowEx’s version of the same story was how this incident confirmed Halifax as the most racist place he’d ever been.

  • The Crazy Orchid Chase
    Despite hating the Queen with all his might, NowEx suggested a few days before leaving that perhaps we should bring a little gift from Montréal for our hosts. I thought it was a good idea, but given that I’m so lousy at thinking of an appropriate gift, I suggested that we wait until we get to Halifax to look around the house and come up with an idea that way.

    Seeing their lovely garden at the back of their home and the many house plants they had, NowEx very soon came up with an idea: a plant, but not just any plant: an orchid. But, he also wanted to see the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Pier 21, as well as see my other friends (whom he happened to like, although even that’s a big word with him and I should probably say, ‘whom he didn’t actively dislike’). So, it was something like the Thursday by the time we got around to shopping for the orchid.

    Except for one day, when we went to Crystal Crescent Beach, it rained every day we were there, and on that Thursday, the downpour was monsoon-like. But that’s not the worst part: just like I didn’t know that it’s next to impossible to buy winter clothes in February in Halifax, it’s next to impossible to find a potted orchid in the middle of the summer in Halifax because people are preoccupied with their outdoor garden at the time of year.

    Let me use a bit of shorthand here. Instead of “we went to four clothing stores and came out empty-handed,” substitute with “flower shops” and you have the same scenario as February ’08. Then add the pouring rain and NowEx’s newfound sense of empowerment that screaming at me will get him what he wants: I was “once again” guilty of putting everything off to the last minute, not to mention not knowing anything. When I started thinking we’d never find a potted orchid, I suggested we might just have to get another kind of plant that would be just as lovely, but wooooooo! “You don’t understand!” he screamed. “The orchid is the queen of all flowers!”

    By the grace of Dog, the owner of a North End flower shop which didn’t have even the seed of an orchid told us to go to the SuperStore on Joseph Howe Drive because the florist there has some year-round, and indeed she did. We brought home the $35 orchid with almost as much care and precaution as the most precious of cargo, whereupon NowEx burst forth into our hosts’ house, with me trailing behind him to hold the umbrella, to present — and go on and on and on about — the treasure for the Queen.

    “I just wanted to throw up,” the Queen told me several weeks later with her trademark deadpan delivery. “I was at my wit’s end with NowEx by that point and here I saw you two barge into my house with that fucking orchid, which I knew you’d paid for, and I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t you just throw the fucking money on the table, for what it’s worth to me?'”

    For you see, the Queen and I never exchanged gifts; it’s just not what we do. I also knew that receiving flowers was a sore point for her, but I remembered it was in the context of cut flowers from a lover, which for her had become code for “I fucked up.” However, I had thought that since she frequently bought herself flowers from the market and the fact they did have house plants, this stupid orchid would pass the test.

    But it wasn’t about that in this case. What got on her tits was how she felt by that point of our visit that NowEx had me wrapped around his little finger and I was simply saying yes to trips to Toronto, to this, to that — to whatever he wanted! “When did you become Mister Moneybags?” she thought when we delievered the orchid but only asked me after I’d sent NowEx back to Mexico. To that I protested, “Oh, come on! It was only 35 bucks!” To which she replied, “Precisely! Since when has 35 bucks been nothing to you?” This was coming from a woman who had seen me struggle with barely a pot to piss in almost the whole time she’d known me, and to her, just as I was finally getting my head above water, I got snagged by someone whom she deemed, at best, an opportunist.

    After we’d left Halifax, the Queen gave the orchid to Miss Millie — yes, my former and the Queen’s current cleaning lady. Millie’s green thumb is legendary for miles around and the Queen couldn’t stand seeing that stupid orchid in her house, especially after what happened two days later, after which the thing arrogantly stood as a symbol of sadness and worry. So she gave it to Millie to get the damn thing out of her sight. I howled with laughter when I heard this news because NowEx had hated Millie on sight, calling her La Bruja de Halifax (The Witch of Halifax) based solely on her appearance. That the goddamn orchid should land in Millie’s hands was beyond rich.

    Maybe only Dog or the Devil knows the answer to this riddle: Miss Millie’s legendary green thumb mysteriously failed and she killed the orchid within a matter of days.

  • Get Me Out of This Fucking Town NOW!
    Finally we come to THE breaking point, the moment when the irreparable damage was done, the scene that turned out to be Act I of How to Begin Divorce Proceedings Without Using the Word ‘Divorce’.

    It was the day before we were to head back to Montréal, the Saturday of the Pride parade in Halifax, and again it was raining or verging on rain. NowEx and I had had a row the night before — or, should I say more accurately, he had had a row with me, for I hardly talked back — and he was still in our room even though it was nearing noon while I was downstairs with the Queen and the Grand Poobah who were having breakfast and were deciding to skip the parade this year. That’s when NowEx beckoned me from the top of the stairs: “Maurice, can you can up, please…”

    I went up and, from the top of the stairs, I could see him standing by the window in our room, on the other side of the bed. I walked into the room, whereupon he ordered me to close the door, and as soon as I did, he viciously said as he was wagging his finger at me, “Get me out of this fucking town NOW!

    Any colour I had in my face must have flushed out as I felt that invisible cloud of heat rise over my head, and I slowly sat on the edge of the bed as he continued making his demand based on what a “fucking racist” place Halifax is. As I sat there, all I could think of is how we were to leave anyway in less than a day. Moreover, the “constantly in negotiation” mindset I’d developed for NowEx began evaluating which option would be easier for everybody involved: stand my ground and refuse, which would make our last 18 hours in Halifax beyond uncomfortable for everybody, or quickly pack our stuff and leave for a 16-hour car drive I hadn’t anticipated for that day.

    I can still see my therapist Lucy’s face when I told her about this incident two years after the fact. “WHAT?!” she exclaimed. “You actually packed up and left?” Then she paused before saying, “Interesting you said ‘which would be easier’… And we know by now you’ll do anything to make things easier for everyone else but yourself, and prolonging the scene for everyone to witness wasn’t the easier option…”

    Yup, she was right! I chose to bend because, in that split-second decision, it seemed the better choice for all parties involved. Despite the impossible position in which NowEx had just placed me, all I could think of is that he had no option and that *I* had placed him in that situation — *I* had brought him to Halifax. He was completely reliant on me financially, so he couldn’t just storm off to the airport and get on a plane back to Montréal, where besides he’d have to face the despised Cleopatrick once there. I didn’t have a good option from which to choose. My choice was bad, worse and worst.

    We had some dishes we’d picked up on the side of McCully Street a few days earlier, so I went downstairs where the Queen was still sitting at the end of her dining room table, reading the paper. Knowing something was wrong, she looked up at me, standing at the opposite end of the table, and with my voice trembling despite my best efforts, I said, “Change of plans… We’re leaving within the next 15 minutes. Do you have some scrap newspaper so we can wrap those dishes we found?”

    She jumped out of her seat, came over to me, and took me in her arms. I felt my shoulders stiff and numb, standing there in her arms, and I think we were both saying in a vain attempt to sooth things over, “It’s okay… It’s okay…”

    The next thing I remember is that NowEx and I were packing the car a few minutes later, after the Queen of Mexico (NowEx) and the Queen of Sheba had locked their implicit tiaras for the last time by exchanging the most mutually insincere goodbye imaginable. Normally the (real) Queen would be standing at her door to see people off, but not this time. Just as I was about to get behind the wheel, I felt the Queen’s house keys in my pant pocket and rushed back inside.

    “I almost forgot to give you back the keys…”

    The Queen was standing at the foot of the stairs, enormous tears streaming down her cheeks.

    My heart sank. The Queen and I know each other too well. We didn’t need to say anything. She wasn’t crying because of our storming off per se. She was crying because she knew, from experience, what was really happening, and I saw in her eyes that she knew.

    “Mine Maurice” was in an emotionally abusive relationship, and it broke her heart to pieces.

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The 1,763-Day Weekend
Part 14 — The Slow Motion Derailment

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Train WreckI suddenly found myself driving to Montréal, not saying a word. I think we might have been about an hour from Halifax, near Truro, when NowEx asked me the same question he’d asked in our room that last night in Vallerta: “What? Is it going to be like this for the rest of the trip?” Except that, by this time, my newfound pair had finally dropped and I didn’t hesitate to answer, “Maybe… I’m sorry, but I’m in no mood to talk to you right now, not after that little stunt!”

He immediately objected to my use of the word “stunt,” but I just tuned him out. Instead, I could only hear my inner voice repeating, “It’s broken. It’s over. It’s broken. Simplify. It’s broken.”

At the same time, I was trying to decide what to do once back in Montréal. Even though it turned Cleopatrick into collateral damage, I was going to ask him to leave, although not to make more room for NowEx, for I was also imagining a conversation with him where I would ask him to leave as well. Logistically speaking, I only had to fork out another fifty bucks or so to Air Canada to change the return date on his ticket, just as I had done a few days before to officially postpone his return to December. That was the easy part.

So this is how much it took for the compulsive rescuer in me to finally admit defeat. This is what it took… But I hadn’t quite reached bottom yet. That would take me another two weeks.

I don’t know why, but somewhere between Moncton and Fredericton, I started to talk. Maybe it’s because I thought I was being as puerile as he’s too easily given to be. Just as long as we didn’t talk about why we were on the road to Montréal all of a sudden…

In fact, I’ll never comprehend why, but I turned “nice” again. We were nearing Hartland when we decided it was time to stop for some supper, but instead of just stopping anywhere along the road, I actually did the detour into the town so that I could show him the longest covered bridge in the world. I think I was pretty certain in my mind he would never have another opportunity to see it, but why I even cared can probably only be explained with, “That’s just the way I am.”

We had to stop several times after that because I was getting tired, for I hadn’t rested properly for this long drive. Meanwhile, you would think that someone like NowEx, after pulling that stunt that he did, would have been on his best behaviour the whole way. But, of course, that would have been too much to hope for.

It was about 4:00 am, still dark and about an hour from Montréal when it started to rain a bit, making the lines on the road hard to see for someone who was exhausted. But after we had turned off to continue on Autoroute 20 at Sainte-Julie, from where the Montréal skyline is in sight, Mister NowEx asked that I stop so that he could pee. I knew (and told him) we had less than 15 minutes to go, but he wouldn’t hear of it. So, I found myself driving slowly on the far-right lane so that I could better read the road signs and look for an indication of a gas station. “What, are you lost again?” he clipped, to which I should have told him to shut up and tie a knot in it, …but I didn’t and eventually found a gas station. (The insulting part of the “are you lost again” clip was that I never, EVER got lost while driving with him, but when the rain had started, tired as I was, I was not driving with my normal assurance, and he obviously felt that.)

The worst part is he showed no shame when we reached home exactly 10 minutes later. Instead, as we were about to get out of the car, he put on that fake face feigning sincerity and said, “Thank you for bringing me back from that place, I just couldn’t……”

“Get out of the car so that I can park it” is all I said, cutting him off.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The next day after a few hours’ sleep, Cleopatrick and I went to the Java U down the street so we could talk. It wasn’t so much a conversation as a monologue, where I told him much of what had transpired in the last week up to the pivotal event that explained our early return.

I won’t deny I was misty-eyed through much of my retelling, but it’s when I reached the part about bringing back the keys to The Queen and finding her in tears at the bottom of her stairs that the floodgate really opened. It wasn’t that I felt ashamed; it’s that I knew how broken-hearted and worried she was for me.

I then made my request that he move out. “It’s not because he bullied me into it, but because I want you to.” That wasn’t a lie, and he knew I was planning to give NowEx his marching orders next; rather, it was part of the “Simplify” I kept hearing my inner voice saying while on the road the day before. I assured him he could take whatever time he needed — a month or two — but within less than a week, he’d found a place and moved out.

* * * * * * * * * * *

It’s too bad it didn’t work out as well with NowEx. Now don’t get me wrong: that night we did talk for hours in the living room back home. I even said at one point, “It’s over and I want out of this,” but it’s as if neither of us heard me say that. The next day, I sent him off to the downtown YMCA for his first day of the conversational French course in which I’d registered him before our trip.

I think it had started before the trip, but definitely every morning after the trip, while I was in the shower, I wanted to cry. Anything he said, anything he did, even his mere presence bothered me. Yet I didn’t rekindle the conversation and repeat that I wanted out. On the contrary, I “made nice,” took him out to eat, and tried to hold things together. Maybe I was thinking that he might as well finish the damn French course since it was already paid for? Beats me! All I know is that I was guilty of sending him mixed signals. Maybe, even though I truly didn’t believe he had it in him, I was scared (again) that he might get physically violent…

Then came Pride weekend in Montréal for which La Chelita, the Queen’s daughter, had planned months in advance to attend with Hong, a member of her “Asian posse.” That turned out to be the most bizarre weekend because it seemed everybody except NowEx knew that his days in Canada — moreover the days of us — were counted. He simply couldn’t repress his need to control everything and everyone, which pushed me to have quick huddles with the gurlz during which I would roll my eyes and report to them what was to be their expected behaviour and they would cluck back the perfect response each time. It even provoked La Chelita at one point to purchase a five-pound bag of almonds at Marché Jean-Talon as if to prove that no, she wasn’t wandering off aimlessly, she wanted some almonds! Ah, good times… Each time La Chelita retold this story, the bag of almonds grew to reach 1,000 pounds at last count.

Then again, in hindsight, he probably did sense we were all against him, as that’s in the very nature of someone with BPD — stigma about terminology be damned! One time when we’d all come back home together, I’d called dibs on the bathroom while we were in the elevator because I needed to pee like a racehorse, but he protested “NO, *I* need to go first!” The annoyance on my face must have been killing because he retracted and let me go first. However, after he went after me, he came to the living room where I was sitting with Hong — La Chelita had slipped next to the bathroom — and he chewed me out about how it wasn’t fair because he hadn’t known what “dibs” meant, and then he stormed off to the bedroom, slamming the door.

I trust that you’re noting the escalation, gentle readers. He went from chewing me out privately, to chewing me out within earshot of friends, to chewing me out in front of my friends as if they weren’t there. I simply had to admit to myself that the way I’d let him get away with so much had emboldened him to believe that there was no limit to what I would take from him. Except that’s where he was wrong: he had passed the limit by so much already that I didn’t care anymore about salvaging our marriage, let alone seeking help for him as I had thought back in Toronto when I realized he had a far more serious problem than anger management issues.

I just looked at Hong who was sitting facing me and shook my head and rolled my eyes. Which was it: did he or didn’t he know what “dibs” meant? He certainly seemed to know in the elevator… But of course that was a rhetorical question that I didn’t even bother verbalizing, since I knew that the problem was a simple case of him not having gotten precisely what he’d wanted — in this case, first go at the bathroom.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The night the gurlz were leaving, NowEx attended the rave being held for the closing of Pride at Parc-Émelie-Gamelin. I didn’t go and I wouldn’t have gone even if things had been going well between us. It’s just not my scene, but, again, even if things had been okay, I would have encouraged him to go on his own because he loves such events. He’d already decided he’d skip class the next day and would probably stay at a friend’s, MexiGoth, who lived in the Village.

So, after dropping him off at the rave, I drove the gurlz to Trudeau for their flight back to Halifax. But then — and I’ve never told this to anyone until right now — once I saw online that the gurlz‘ flight had taken off, I went to the tubs.

I didn’t stay long. Just long enough to get a little bit of what I didn’t get at home anymore. Besides, I had to work the next day. I just needed to do something that, even if only in my mind, would give me license to bring up again the conversation I needed to bring up.

* * * * * * * * * * *

NowEx crawled home late the next morning, hungover like hell. He slept all day in the living room to get as far away as possible from the construction noise in the alleyway. (Of course he came to my office to complain about the noise, but I just looked at him and said, “What do you expect me to do? It’s bothering me for my work, too, you know…”) Early that evening, around 7:00, seeing that he was still hung over, I declared that I had a few errands to run and left.

I did run some errands. But I also drove to Hudson to sit by the riverbank and then to a park on the Plateau that offers a breathtaking view of the city — in fact, the same park where NowEx, Cleopatrick and I had ended that day-trip to Montréal in August ’07, after I had just met NowEx. I simply wanted to be by myself; I simply wanted to cry. Here I was in this city I’d spent nearly a decade wishing I was in, and I’d fucked it all up by marrying NowEx. I would be turning 44 two days later, and I had never, ever, been so unhappy in my adult life.


I’d finally reached bottom.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I got home well after midnight to find that NowEx had put the chain on the door, so he had to unlatch it so that I could come in. (No comment.) Once in, I went directly to the fridge to put away the few items I had bought, and as I was doing so, with him sitting in a chair at the kitchen table, he said, “I feel so abandoned…”

“If the shoe fits…” I clipped back, and went to the bathroom.

I, too, sat in a chair at the kitchen table when I came back from the john. At first we said very little until I finally explained what I meant with my clip: “I feel so unhappy, NowEx, I can’t go on like this. And no, I didn’t want you with me tonight.”

I told him the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about where I’d been the whole evening, even admitting that I didn’t know where I was going until I got there, and that I would have stayed in that park all night if it hadn’t been for the fact that I knew he’d be worried about where I was. (When I thought back a few years later about having said that, I wondered, perhaps ungenerously, if he had in fact worried that I might have been in an accident, for he didn’t mention it that night.)

It was he who said it first. “Do you want me to go back to Mexico?”

I paused a little, then said, “Yes…” Tears started filling his eyes — real tears, not forced. That made me regress a bit. “Maybe just for a cooling off period…”

I hated myself instantly for having put that card on the table.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The next four days, including my 44th birthday, remain a blur to me to this day.

There was a power failure in the neighbourhood the next day, and when it didn’t seem to come to an end and I couldn’t work, we decided to go to Oka Beach. When we got back home that evening, I asked him about his preferred date to go back to Mexico. “Tomorrow if I could,” he responded testily, but I knew that probably wouldn’t be possible.

I went to use the phone in the office to call Air Canada, and just as I was beginning to speak to an agent, he looked at me from the edge of the office and asked very loudly, “We’re really doing this?” I put the agent on hold for a second and turned to look at him. I didn’t answer back; I just shrugged my shoulders and looked at him as if to say, “Whatdayathink?” When I’d finished the call that resulted in amending his departure to the following Saturday, he came back to the office and sarcastically said, “Well! That was easy, wasn’t it?” and he whisked back into the living room.

That’s when I realized that he really thought he had nine lives, that he really believed I didn’t have a limit, that he thought I was bluffing about having him go back to Mexico.

But he still could play me like a fiddle, and he did in the remaining three days. He had me considering going ahead with getting his Canadian PR papers as if we were a happily married couple, guilting me on the Thursday morning with, “Do you realize what you’re sending me back to?” Funny how Canada suddenly became so much better than Mexico, huh?

Still, he knew how guilty I felt about that fact and about how, in my mind, he was here all because of me. He never heard me say that I had married him to rescue him from himself, for I hadn’t yet admitted it to myself at that point, but he knew somehow that was all part of my sense of guilt. *I* had dragged him into this, but now here I was, as he wrote to me once back in Mexico, simply sending him back like an unwanted dog.

On his last night as he was packing, he asked me if and what I would be telling my friends and my family. Moreover, he assumed but specifically asked if and what I would be telling The Queen. I replied honestly that I would certainly be “talking to her,” which prompted him to say, bitterly, “Sure, of course… And don’t say hi to her for me.” And I just thought to myself, “How charming…” and felt in that moment that his plane couldn’t leave soon enough.

Finally, the Saturday morning arrived — Saturday, August 22, 2009 — and I drove him to Trudeau. In the following days and weeks, we spoke only once on Skype and e-mailed each other only once. But that was enough. After September 14, we became completely estranged.

In the immediate days after he was gone, all my closest friends and work colleagues where there for me. Yes, dare I say it: they came to my rescue! Isn’t that rich? The (recovering compulsive) rescuer being rescued…

Except for a few who shall remain nameless but whose identity you can probably guess, most didn’t come right out and tell me not to go ahead with NowEx’s PR papers. Instead, they made me do some research and asked me to call them back with my findings. By Labour Day, or even sooner, they all in their own way made me realize not only that I was the worst liar in the world who would be incapable of posing as happily married to NowEx before an immigration board, but that I would be engaging in fraud which would throw me out on the street on my ass with nothin’, most especially my job at the bank…

And for what? For NowEx?

Regardless of the fact I married him for the wrong reason, if he hadn’t treated me as he did, maybe

But he did treat me as he did. It had been too much to simply forgive and forget. The only hint of guilt I had — and still have to a lesser degree — is that he did so in good part because he’s not well.
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The 1,763-Day Weekend
Part 15 — Even Bad Things Come to an End

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Even Bad Things Come to an EndI still remember how I felt, sitting in the Village that Saturday night he left.

Was I sad? Was I moping? Did I feel guilty?

Not exactly.

I had gone to Oka Beach by myself earlier in the day, came back home afterwards to clean up and headed to the Village by myself. But what I remember most vividly of that night is that everything seemed sharper, clearer than it was just 24 hours earlier.

It was as though, without realizing it, I had been looking at the world — at the city I had adopted — through lens that were smudged and greasy. But not that night. Everything was so clear. Everything was in focus. I felt like I had just arrived in the Montréal where I had intended to move in the first place.

That’s strange to me as I think back, because that night I was still thinking that I would go ahead with NowEx’s PR application. I had not yet been convinced that it was a bad idea. That night, NowEx and I were not yet totally estranged. We had put the word “divorce” on the back burner before he’d left. Yet that night I felt light. Liberated. Relieved

That night — August 22, 2009 — was my first real night living in Montréal. Yet all I did is sit there and look at people go by. But I met again with the Maurice I had once known and the city I had chosen.

* * * * * * * * * * *

For the most part, that feeling lasted for six months. I won a cruise for my work six weeks after NowEx left, and somehow that made me feel vindicated: I had made the right choice. When I visited family and friends in the Maritimes later that October, I felt triumphant: phoenix rising. I threw myself into my work but, alas, that soured when, after the cruise in January, I was assigned to the Worst Supervisor Ever. That threw me into a slump from which I only recovered late last fall. And I put off the obvious business that had to be done: formalizing the divorce.

* * * * * * * * * * *

It’s funny, because there was no doubt after September 14, 2009, that the divorce was inevitable.

NowEx and I had called each other only once several days after he’d returned to Mexico. Truth be told, in those first few days, feeling so suddenly liberated, I avoided calling him. And when we did speak, the call was short and tense.

Several more days passed. He tried calling me several times until he finally just sent me an e-mail message so vile that the last shadow of a doubt I may have harboured evaporated, not to say shattered in a million pieces. The following reply from me was our last communication ever.

I’ll spare you his bile that provoked my ire. And, by the way, this is the first time I’m showing this to anyone, so consider yourself priviledged. ( LOL! )

You start off by saying that I’m the one who has to call first (“Now I’m thinking I’m not calling ’till you are man enough to take the fucking phone and stand the shit that you gave me,” you wrote), but just a few hours later you start calling me? I suppose you changed your mind because you figured I wouldn’t be “man enough” to call. Not “man enough” to put up with your constant mood swings and changes of mind. Give me a break! Why the hell would I want to subject myself to more of that?! Why should I?

Yes, last night I chose not to answer your calls despite my writing earlier that I would answer, because I was absolutely infuriated after reading your reply which even included a flourish (if I read your prose correctly) of calling me “stupid” for not doing as you do and blurt out whatever crosses my mind — other persons’ thoughts and feelings be damned! You can choose to call my behaviour “evading” you, but the truth is that I couldn’t stand after that the thought of talking to anyone but especially not to you. As for this morning, I didn’t answer not because I was evading, but because I had started work early for a phone appointment. Now I’m just taking a few minutes to acknowledge that I know very well that you’ve been calling, but I can’t answer because I have to work. And won’t be answering the damn phone until this evening at the earliest. And even there, I’ll see. I don’t see the point of my screaming and hollering, yet that’s all I feel like doing right now. I don’t see how that would be constructive because when I get this angry, I can’t make sense of myself let alone think that anyone else could make sense of me.

NowEx, no one simply “decides” that he is not happy. That is NOT a decision. Nobody “decides” how he FEELS!

So, in your mind my silence is somehow very typically white/anglo. Well! Heaven forbid that it should be viewed as simply the way I am, as an individual — the son of Robert who felt deeply but simply couldn’t get it out. And heaven forbid even more if I were to make a similar generalization about you by implying it’s because you’re Mexican! Except I wouldn’t make such a generalization; I wouldn’t make such an extrapolation. For someone who is so sensitive in decrying when certain words, actions or attitudes are racist when you think they’re directed towards you, you certainly have no qualms in making similar remarks without thinking of how egregious such generalization are.

And one last quick thing before I go. I want you to think of all the times you admonished me. I know that’s a difficult exercise for you because you like to forget about stuff like that immediately after. But, in doing so, you’re only absolving yourself of responsibility. I want you to think (as in, putting yourself in someone’s else shoes) about how those admonishments and orders, big and small, could have accumulated and led me to feel like a mistreated “pet.” And about how, after three weeks of not having been made to feel that way, I’m not exactly keen on going back to that over the phone.

The shit that [I] gave [him]? Really?

And by the way, what did he call my shutting down in silence after he’d hit too many of my buttons at once?

Violent… Such violence…

Yeah, right.

Remember what I was telling you about his tendency to project back his failings onto me?

I rest my case.

* * * * * * * * * * *

It’ll be three years in September since everything ended with that reply. Perhaps I did have the last word, both literally and figuratively. Perhaps my reply was a “got ya.” Perhaps he was shamed because he recognized that everything I said about him was true and free of hyperbole.

More likely, however, my reply just pissed him off finally and totally, and he did what he does best: he cut me off. Just like he cut off his own mother for seven years in his late teens and early twenties. Just like he cut off Jorge. And Jovana. And Martin. And Cleopatrick. And Cleopatrick’s sister. And Brian in Toronto. And I can’t remember who else. Anybody who has the temerity to disagree with him in the slightest or not say or do or behave exactly as he expects them to. And not only did he defriend me or anyone he met through me on Facebook — that was expected! — he also managed to make himself quite invisible on the Web.

In fact, this two-year-old article is the most recent evidence I’ve found to prove that he’s still around, although I nearly blew coffee through my nose when I read that he works (or claims to be working) as an interpreter “acting as a go-between to assist Latin Americans living in the USA whose English language skills aren’t sufficient enough to understand legal jargon, government documents, and insurance claims.” Dog helps those poor people who rely on him!

But none of this is about whether I won or he won. The truth is that we both lost. Except now that the divorce is finalized, two things still bother me.

  1. It’ll be three years in September since our total estrangement, and I sincerely doubt his life and his thoughts have been affected one-tenth of the extent mine have. I’m sure he’s moved on long ago. I doubt he ever has a thought about me, good or bad, whereas I’m only able to bury all of this now that the divorce is finalized and I’ve written this series of long blog entries.
  2. We all wag our finger in disapproval at politicians, particularly in the U.S., who have affairs or divorce their spouse while the latter is gravely ill. I know I’m not a clinical psychologist and my therapist Lucy’s ethics prevented her from making a formal diagnostic of NowEx, but based on what I told her about him, she did timidly venture that my appraisal of BPD and anger management issues sounded very plausible. Therefore, a teeny tiny part of me feels like I did like one those sleazy politicians who divorced their sick spouse.

But I manage to clear my conscience pretty quickly by saying for Point 1, “Big deal! Get over it…” and for Point 2, I plead “pre-existing condition,” not to mention “too far gone.”

For you know what? I’m convinced NowExMotherInLaw knew about Point 2. I regret that my Spanish was insufficient to call her to formally say goodbye to her and to say, “You know as well as I do why it has come to this…” She may not know the term BPD but she’s his mother, for chrissake, so she knows… She knows

* * * * * * * * * * *

I still wear my wedding band and I plan to continue wearing it for two reasons. The first reason is that I never would have spent over $1,000 on jewelry for myself, so you bet I’m keeping my Cartier ring! The second reason is that I only need to look at it if I feel the urge to rescue someone, and it forces me to stop and think: Am I about to do the right and kind thing, or am I about to go too far? Moreover, what is my intuition telling me?

I’ll be turning 47 next month. I won’t say “never,” but I seriously doubt I’ll ever marry again. I really can’t see it happening. As for what might be in store for another relationship, I can honestly say I’m still not interested in looking right now, nor am I the type of guy who feels the need to be in a relationship. I don’t feel lesser or empty without one.

That said, never look a gift horse in the mouth. I think I’m fundamentally a solitary person, but that’s not saying I’m a loner or a recluse. I’m comfortable in my own company; always have been. So I tend to think that, especially as I get older, there must be other guys who are like me and who might be comfortable with a “relationship loosely defined,” which doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be close and intimate and loving and giving, but which simply wouldn’t be measured by getting a joint mortgage and spitting toothpaste down the same drain every morning. I just don’t see myself fitting into that mould, ever.

But it’s early days still. It hasn’t been a month yet since I’ve become…

Yours truly,

The Gay Divorcé
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