We decide on the way to Starbucks that I won’t be finishing the work at my house: I am already exhausted and we only have one week off work to pull this off. We need to get going: we need to leave the city. You have been out of rehab since last Saturday. That day we drive to Telus Field to see my first baseball game; a collegiate team is here from Lethbridge. The sun is shining and you strike a high contrast black and white in fake Ray Bans I bought for you at the liquor store and a black and white striped Ralph Lauren polo picked up for a bargain at Winner's. I love being outside with you surrounded by so much open air and easy talk of rules that were designed to provide structure to our vicarious joy; you like explaining things to me and I like being someone who cares enough to listen. I miss shopping for you; the constant and available compulsion to provide for you whatever you cannot provide yourself (the list is long, in this case); responding to and ideally anticipating needs you did not even know you had. You complain of lethargy and cabin fever, so I scour Kijiji for a used heavy bag to match the gloves you explain as the touchstone for a brief bout of sobriety and the beginning of a fruitful relationship with a boxing coach. You dream of “card matches” and sparring; of a hard righthand hook. You let me try once, saying I need to keep my eyes open when I hit you which is harder than anticipated. I am thinking now of Jack hitting me, but also suffocation; of harassment and the utter debasement of a woman’s humanity (mine), all while left-right-and ducking the rage lodged like an uncrossed line beneath my throat cemented by a curious lingering will to see you flinch when I touch you. This is where you are at your most tender and kind. You ask me to keep it up– to keep swinging– until what happens is a series of connections sufficient and reliable enough for you to tell April that her mom could be a good boxer one day, if she wanted to be. I bring him magazines full of vivid paintings; sculpture and an illustrated short story by Haruki Murakami when he says there is nothing to look at in rehab because of the ban on smartphones. I bring him Tokyo-street-food-themed colouring books full of money cats; royal blue Egyptian cotton towels for the showers. I bring him fresh socks and true crime biographies written by OJ Simpson, my love, a new dress and our determination to believe he will see this through as I rest my palm on his shaking shoulders, looking out from a picnic table over empty fields and a string of trees with the rags of old clothes tied round bundles of tobacco sending prayers with them to the wind. (I tell you this is the worst part; the beginning part; the part you can be proud of when you’re standing later, looking back from some other fallen place at faith you had to have in building away from where you’ve lived so long it’s like there's nothing but to be and stories you’ve made by now lay broken; struck with aching fallibility at the conviction you must leave this place– are leaving now, already– and it’s less that we are living and more like I can’t help but be the one that I am striving for in understanding it’s been coming since before I knew I needed it and who am I to argue with the complacency of time–?) I present him with a rose gold watch he admired in a window along Saint Denis in Montreal. I had a feeling that if we just go there, we’ll move there, which at that point still seemed like an impossible dream; it came with a card I drew with a dragon on it and a poem about the sky: was he the gift I gave my dragon–? I love to compare your vanity with mine. -- What I now understand to be an act of courtship: sitting on a bench at the high point of the bank of the North Saskatchewan river, looking back to the side we both live on; you tell me about blacking out at a relative’s wedding and waking up with your face bruised and bleeding. You had beat your own brother senseless. You said you wanted to write a series of short stories. This was one of them. What you really wanted was to move to Montreal. You would later explain, in a drunken text exchange just before an exam I had failed to study for in order to record the piano tracks for a new song I’d just written about you and that I couldn’t wait to bring to your house (which I would do by showing up with “a new song to record the vocals” for: not by telling you how I felt, even though the song sampled short-wave radio broadcasts that could still be received from the Second World War– bizarre, child-like, and unintelligible streams of voices, songs, codes, and num-bers– that you had showed me several nights before as I told you the story of an orphan named Ivan who had earned his place in a garrison by spying on its unsuspecting rivals on the bank opposite No Man’s Land and keeping warm by burning their corpses) that I was the one with no further opportunities for adventure; for movement; and for the development of dreams– because I was a mother– while he still could aspire to the kind of greatness with which our imaginations were so dually taken. “Maybe we’ll both be there next summer, and we can help each other,” I ventured, knowing I would never leave without him and he had less than a chance in hell of getting there, without me. -- I was right. All we did have to do was go there. I called you walking across the Safeway parking lot, asking: we could be gone by June. Should we take the apartment? Do you really want to–? He had several times in the weeks leading up to our nine days in Montreal told me that no, he did not want to: could not want to; would only ever hurt me and himself in trying not to end up hating each other and “fighting all the time” while stranded on some island we had built ourselves, but instead of that, he said “yes,” before asking for $500 to pay his Epcor bill. He had arrived home from Montreal the night before to discover the power had been turned off in his absence, as he had failed to pay for any many months since. It seemed a small and silly thing to offer, given all I had yet to receive. -- It must seem dramatic sometimes, the way I put all this. It must seem un-deniably strange and ill-considered. Doubtless there are many of you who know and understand you would never put yourself in such position; just as doubtless I, in hearing your stories in their place would scoff with unrestrained derision at the heartache and disregard of your own love: and should we call it that–? though mine are sometimes more naked, bourne. -- The first time I am penetrated by another man, I can’t believe how much I miss you, even though I have just told this same man a list of all your sensual sins: you never kissed me with an open mouth; you, a lover of blow jobs (at least in comparison to your indifference to almost everything else with regards to my body and its many uses) had only gone down on me once– and worse, were amazing at it. That you hated being on top (your back hurt), and, from the beginning– but certainly towards the end– were so disinterested not only in fucking me, but touching me at all, that on the odd occasion you did end up inside of me I felt more guilty than pleased; like a thief in the night and hold not this soft-hearted child in my arms but the one moment you looked up at me, on top of you with our faces so close I imagine your hand on my cheek (though it is most certainly my hair) while I say “you’re so beautiful,” and he says “you’re beautiful too,” and I imagine this is the same thing as if you’d said it yourself but it’s not; a bit more, though, than our usual call and response where “I love you” sounds more and more like, “I like having everything you give to me” and in so believing might imagine that in another world where I had “gotten to” him sooner we might have really been in love. I still don’t believe it’s all been in my head, this feeling of connection: like something is happening, here. We are both so in love with beauty: can’t you be just as in love with me? -- I watch you fall increasingly away from me. Your resentment of my ear-nestness, my planned activities, becomes not a shared life but persecution of your preferred isolation. A picnic, with sandwiches; a picture of you by a Basquiat; a picture of you, looking wholesome and well-fed. The park, with the cat. The park, where we play catch just once with the glove I buy for your birthday; we do not play again. You want me to leave you alone. You want me to watch cartoons. We still have dinner and lunch and breakfast. You like to cook and I revel in being fed by you, in this one real way. I am buying all the groceries. You go through your money so quickly now it is always gone before more comes. My credit card bill climbs even higher than what it took to get us here. You pay me back every time the check comes, but there is less and less left for you each time. You hate me for bringing it up; we begin to fight over it. You like me even less than you already do, which begins to feel like less than not at all. I begin to spend my days “not minding”. Not minding I clean up after your late night each morning; that you are not awake. That you did not come to bed; that you are drunk. That you drop out of school; that you don’t want to let me pick the movie, read any books I recommend, meet my friends. Make your own. Establish a routine. The first time I am with another man, some silent tears escape; roll down my cheeks. I know what it feels like when you slip inside of me: like fate; like a whole belonging. Like I will never be back home again save every line of your body and the seal-pup softness of your fur; the convex shape of your chest and the place I put my face on are the bed’s been made for me while my head, it’s grown so tired I can’t help but lay it down again and again. I know the way you looked at me small as you have ever been in bed that morning as I leave, and ask “that was nice, wasn’t it?” like you’re still asking my permission to acknowledge what I’m sure surprised us both, even if I had been dreaming about it for months and it was not at all what I had wanted, but as you turned out to be the more besides. You’ll never look at me that way again and hate me for it even as it carries farther than you have ever been from home and where we are now both alone. You inside of me means I am falling; land in two perfect halves as the lovers had and how I wonder, here to feel again, as if we never faltered. -- There was only one real moment last night with that man that I felt like an animal freely, on my stomach half off the bed with one foot on the ground beside his. He fucked and fucked and fucked me while I said the words “harder–” and that I am okay; that it doesn’t hurt, and I meant it, too. There was nothing you could put inside of me that would make any difference anymore.