The 1,763-Day Weekend
Part 5 — Post-Proposal Missed Opportunity #2
My second and by far my best opportunity to walk away came only days before we were set to be wed on February 22, 2008.
We had met up in Montréal on the 9th because I had wanted him to be part of the apartment hunt, as I would be moving from Halifax as long planned on April 1 (“long planned” as in “before I met NowEx”).
Given that he wasn’t going to be able to work legally in Canada until he had his PR status and that I categorically refused to hear of him working under the table as it could ruin his/our application, I was going to be footing all the bills for both of us for a good long while, and I was perfectly fine with that. After all, as my reasoning went, I was making enough money for both of us not to live high off the hog, but comfortably.
Since it seemed at the time that his application to come to Canada as my spouse would be quicker if the application were made through the Canadian embassy in Mexico, he would continue to live there and be responsible for coming up with the scratch to pay his way through over there, just as he’d been doing all along, and there would be a lot of travelling back and forth until he could finally enter the country with his PR papers in hand. I knew I might have to (and did in fact) occasionally help him out, but that was part of the deal of getting married, I thought. But sorry, I’m digressing from my opportunity to walk away, so let me resume.
The apartment hunt in what was one of the harshest winters Montréal had seen in decades turned out to be difficult because of what I would come to discover to be his egregious lack of practical common sense.** Maybe because 1 Mexican peso is worth just under 10 Canadian cents, he didn’t seem to register when I said that $1,000 all inclusive was the absolute ceiling of what we could afford. While I knew he knew better, it was as if his mind’s eye still saw $100 as being worth only a bit less than $10, so somewhere in his mind he was probably wondering why I was being such a tightwad over a lousy ten bucks a month.
** His egregious lack of practical common sense
A few nights before we were to meet in Montréal, we were looking together at apartment ads on Kijiji and Craiglist, which I had been doing for several weeks already. When we ended our conversation that night so that I could go to bed, he agreed to keep looking and weed out the prospects. I had reminded him what our max was, and suggested not bothering with any ad without pictures unless it seemed unusually promising and not going back too many days since those places would probably be taken already. The next morning, I had an e-mail message from him containing at least three dozen links, none of which being good prospects and many being above our price point.
I frequently remembered this incident months after our marriage went bust because it’s only with the fullness of time that I linked it to why he never finished his honours thesis and kept putting it off. Indeed, it finally dawned on me that he seemed incapable of synthesis, which I would think is an essential intellectual exercise when writing a thesis. Adding this realization to my memories of how he fancied himself a good debater, I then remembered how he WASN’T one because of how he fell for all the basic logical fallacies students of Philosophy 101 are warned against. His preferred tactic was (and likely remains) the strawman argument.
I wish I could tell you that maybe it was only a cultural thing, but as you’ll read a bit later, I eventually came to realize that even organizing a wet dream in his own bedroom would prove to be too organizationally challenging for him. I even fooled myself into believing he was smarter than me, although that could be a function of how good he was at making me feel stupid — something he denied doing but most definitely did — and my shockingly persistent stubbornness at overlooking anything that sent off a warning bell.
One of first apartments we got to view was on Édouard-Montpetit at Westbury, which was being sublet by a couple originally from Guadeloupe. It could have worked despite being at the top end of our budget, but my mistake was to reveal this fact — the “being at the top end of our budget” part, that is — because that’s all it took for the lady of the couple to start yapping about how, in Québec, tenants have the right to refuse a rent increase yet not have to vacate the dwelling. (I thought that was baloney but it turns out to be true, although I suspect refusing an increase and getting the Régie du logement involved could result in an judgement unfavorable to the tenant, but I’m not sure.) Her musings, which played right into what I would come to find to be NowEx’s quasi-genetic Mexican habit of pulling financial fast ones, coupled with the bizarre Mexican devotion to anything with the word “Guadeloupe” because of this broad (a.k.a. the Queen of Mexico), practically made him want to sign the lease right then and there. Call me weird, but I didn’t think it was a good idea to sign before looking at what else was available, as this was only the second apartment we’d seen — well okay, third since we’d looked at two in the first building we visited, but the second wasn’t worth considering since it was $1,000 and on the main floor and right on the Décarie Expressway.
Later I found an ad that suddenly appeared on Craigslist. Until that point, I had refused to look at any ad that didn’t have at least one picture. But while the ad for this sublet had no picture, it had the address (which I recognized from other ads in the same neighbourhood, including for one place that would have been perfect if it hadn’t been available two months too early), it listed the price as well below budget at $825, and it stated that the place was available for April 1 (unlike most other ads which were for March 1). We got to see it almost instantly.
While it’s true the dark hallways didn’t leave the best first impression — the building’s old but the hallways were clean, and besides, we wouldn’t be living in the hallways — I was immediately sucked in by the massive (for an apartment) foyer, the art deco opening looking into the kitchen, and the crisp white walls. Plus, unlike the place on Édouard-Montpetit, the rooms were massive and the bedrooms were at the opposite end of the living room, which would be a perfect setup given that I work from home and two people could be in the apartment during the daytime without getting in each other’s hair (and don’t forget that NowEx had A LOT of hair). But of course there were also problems, the very worst being the mould and crumbling ceiling over the bathtub. However, I knew that I could demand that the landlord fix those things as a condition for moving in. I was right: it turned out the super wasn’t aware of the problem and was very cross with the vacating tenant for not telling her about it.
So, perhaps the accusation NowEx later levelled against me is true: I insisted that THIS was the place. What wasn’t true in his accusation, however, is that I ignored his input and just went ahead and took the place that *I* wanted. He didn’t see and wouldn’t even hear why it made the most sense: that extra $100 per month not spent on rent would go some way to keeping us fed, not to mention that this place was closer to shops and a métro station that would allow us to go either east or south.
As the sole breadearner for a good long while and many months ahead of us still living between Montréal and Mexico City, I WASN’T exercising my veto right to hold anything back from him; rather, I WAS trying to ensure that we wouldn’t languish with empty tummies and tattered clothes …but in a nice apartment. During the short time he had lived in Montréal, he’d stayed in a dump on Saint-Urbain crammed with too many untidy (and possibly illegal) Mexicans, but oh, the place was in the oh-so-hip Plateau, don’t you know, and I guessed that he’d never ventured northwest of Atwater and DeMaisonneuve. On our budget, we never could have afforded a decent apartment in the Plateau, whereas we could in Snowdon which was established in the ’20s and ’30s and is just as quintessentially Montréal.
All that tension, though, was far from being the coup de grâce — the so-called second opportunity to back out of the wedding. No, everything seemed to explode at the airport, after we had dropped off Cleopatrick with his sister, for whom NowEx had taken an instant dislike because she opined that she disliked Mexican cigarettes because she found them too strong. Again, at this point, I didn’t know he would end up taking a dislike for just about everybody to whom I introduced him, nor did I know how often and how virulently he was given to cutting off from friends and relatives.
Since the morning, I’d been worried that another unexpected snowfall over Montréal would delay or cancel our flight to Halifax that evening, so I called ExFriend to discuss this since he was supposed to drive my car to the airport so that NowEx and I could drive ourselves home. But finally here we were at Trudeau International, as everything was a go for our flight to Halifax, albeit with some delay. I was carrying his/our laptop with the strap of the carrying case over my shoulder when he started getting at me to carry it another way but definitely not as I was carrying it. “I’ll carry it like I’m carrying it, it’s just fine,” I said testily, the anxiety over our flight leaving or not and his rantings against Cleopatrick’s sister having worn my patience thin. And that’s when I saw that look on his face for just a second as he pulled his hand off the carrying case, and then he started storming away ahead of me.
Thus started the worst plane ride of my life.
We had some time to kill before getting to the gate for our (further delayed) flight, so we found our way to the food court outside the security perimeter since we hadn’t eaten supper yet. He hardly spoke to me — just enough so that I would know what to order for him from the St. Hubert counter. Later we got to our gate but our plane kept being delayed; he sat across from me, far away, sulking and listening to his iPod-wannabe (for he never could have afforded a real iPod).
He still never said anything once we’d boarded the plane, which turned out to be one of those tiny jets with two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other. Just as a storm was raging inside his head, the entire flight to Halifax was continuous turbulence, and the landing in driving sheets of rain and winds of 80 km/h had me believing we would crash for sure. (The next day as the strong winds continued, planes had to be rerouted because they couldn’t safely land in Halifax.) The only words he uttered after hours of his silent treatment toward me came when the plane was pulling to the gate: “Worst fucking plane ride ever.” But underlying his remark was that it was all my fault — because I was taking him to this backwater called Halifax, because I shouldn’t have booked us on this tiny plane that seemed barely capable of staying airbourne, …I don’t know!
Our luggage arrived on the conveyor belt, soaked: not just our bags, but everyone’s, which ought to give an idea of how awful the weather was that night since even the fastest baggage carriers could not have prevented them from getting wet. I then ventured off to the parking lot on my own in the pouring rain and the inches of slush on the ground to find my car, drove up to the Arrivals terminal to pick up the baggage — that would include NowEx — and drove home, NowEx still not saying a word. As I was driving in the night on Highway 102, rain still pounding down, I simply couldn’t believe that all of this could be happening over how to carry or not an effin’ computer case. I may have been short back there at Trudeau, but man! You ain’t seen nothing compared to if I had really lost it, which thankfully I rarely ever do.
Finally at my apartment, wet and tired, I finally forced him to talk. He started talking about how maybe we shouldn’t go through with the wedding, about how he wondered what had been the point of his coming to Montréal to look for an apartment if I was simply going to take whichever one I wanted, even about if we were really sexually attracted to one another (because, I assume, he certainly wasn’t toward me at that moment). Yet, while I felt no pride invested into this wedding going ahead, especially at that moment — I really didn’t care about having to tell the Queen of Sheba and everybody else that the whole thing had been called off — I. Stayed. The. Course. I pointed out that we could even call it off an hour before, but we still had almost two weeks to call it one way or the other. And that I loved him. Was he telling me that he didn’t love me?
There was my opportunity to call everything off and walk away, served on a silver platter, and I didn’t just turn it down: I argued AGAINST taking the offering. To this day, I still don’t know why I didn’t. Trust me when I tell you that I’ve thought back many, MANY times to that hellish trip, both before and after August 22, 2009 when I drove him to Trudeau International for the last time, and I still don’t understand why I wasn’t whipped back to my senses at that very moment.
The only thing I can say for sure, without flinching, is that it wasn’t because I feared what my friends would think of me, for I knew they were my friends and they would always support me. The best explanation I’ve ever been able to come up with is that I believed (or made myself believe) that the root of the whole debacle was a goddamn computer carrying case after what had been a frantic and stressful three-day search for an apartment, so that was not a good reason to call off the wedding. And worse, somewhere in the deepest recesses of my mind was the profound belief that if we could only let all the dust settle and get through the stress, everything would fall into place and we would both, in our own way, have a better life.
The picture, in hindsight, is perfectly clear. Once again I ignored my intuition and once again I didn’t let myself hear what I was saying so clearly. I only said it aloud three years too late while sitting in Lucy’s chair.