About the Author

Michelle Parise

Michelle Parise is an award-winning journalist, writer, and performer. She has worked for the CBC for more than two decades, in everything from children’s television to music programming and documentary making, as well as at the helm of many national radio programs. She’s also a soccer player, parent, and champion campfire builder. The daughter of Italian immigrants, she was born and raised in Toronto where she still lives today.

 

Books by this Author
Alone
Excerpt

Chapter One: Falling
LOSS

So, here I am on the edge of thirty-nine. Petulant, drunk, and obsessed with a charming but frustrating man in a white shirt and perfect jeans. I‘m taking my one-millionth fancy cocktail, and stumbling down a hallway to go see a tarot card reader. My friends all rolled their eyes, but I like the idea of someone telling me who I am and what my path is based on randomly turned up cards. Because seriously? Fucked if I know these days.

The Man with the White Shirt is mingling so excellently and effortlessly with my friends. His smile and those dark eyes and that body in those jeans —God, it hurts to look at him too long. He‘s so handsome I can hardly stand it sometimes, and whenever he‘s around everything softens in me. Usually. Tonight I‘m all edges. I‘m being a bit rude to him even. I‘ll tell you why later, stick with me.

Right now, I‘m stumbling down the hallway to see the tarot card reader. She‘s, like, twenty-five, max, and drinking a gigantic glass of red wine. She locks the door and it‘s quiet and all fortune teller-y in this closet we‘re in. I‘m drinking my strong fancy French cocktail as she shuffles the cards and thinking about how this is going to be such bullshit, but it‘s my birthday so fun! fun! And then she turns over the first card.

LOSS. It says loss.

More cards come and it‘s like they are shouting at me. FEAR. FUTILITY. What. The. Fuck.

They may as well say Your husband cheated on you and Now you think no one can love you.

“You used to know exactly who you were,” she says. “You were stable, confident. But now you have a veil of uncertainty over you. That‘s because you‘re being tested. To help you figure out how you say yes to things, and how you say no.”

Whoa. How I say yes to things, how I say no. Not if. How. It‘s as if she‘s telling me I have choices. Some control over my life. I know that probably seems obvious to you, but right now? In this year? In this bar? This is news. This bullshit card reading has suddenly become really fucking real.

I return to my friends and try to be cheerful. White Shirt is there to greet me, all gorgeous and sweet. He‘s searching my eyes for a sign, but I just say, “It was fun! She said freaky things!” Inside I think, Fuck, why can‘t this real thing he says he feels for me be real enough?

I wake up the next morning in his bed, my head bashed in by booze I don‘t even know the name of. My veins filled with lead instead of blood. Hungover. Massively. It‘s my thirty-ninth birthday. I look at White Shirt as he lies sleeping, and I already feel far away. How did I get here? I used to be married, for God‘s sake! What happened to my life, to love?

I wonder this all the time now.

Y2K

It‘s 1999. I‘m twenty-four years old and living an artsy city-girl‘s life. I work all day in public radio and spend my free time in used bookstores and going to see bands. Every Wednesday night you‘ll find me and my friends here in this bar, before we head out to a well-known dive for dancing. They all drink and party and stay in school forever, but not me. I rarely drink, and certainly don‘t drink to get drunk. I‘m not being pious, I just love to experience life, and I feel like I‘d be missing out if I put a filter on it.

I also, with every part of me, love love. I mean, I love it! Being in love and falling in love and writing about love and singing about it and living it. I‘ve had one boyfriend after another since I was fifteen years old. All long, committed relationships. I haven‘t slept in a bed alone in years. Relationships are everything to me; I know no other way. I just love to get lost in another person, to learn everything about what interests them, to see what they see and feel what they feel.

And that‘s how it is with my boyfriend right now. We‘ve been together since I was nineteen. He‘s a musician, and four years older than me, and so intelligent and mystical that, probably out of youth or just abject insecurity, I defer to him on just about everything. I think he‘s so much better than me —he‘s read every book, he knows every song, he‘s knowledgeable on all subjects, every topic imaginable. He‘s an atheist, and a passionate altruist. He‘s a vegetarian, so of course now I am too. He‘s a devoted boyfriend, a real partner; we are honest and expressive and artistically inspired by one another. We have matching tattoos, because it‘s the nineties. It‘s been a perfect, symbiotic relationship. We say we‘ll be together forever.

But lately, things are different. The Musician has been talking about us having an open relationship. Like, open open. He thinks we‘re mature enough and secure enough to handle sleeping with other people while still maintaining our committed bond. I‘m less sure —a big part of me feels like true love doesn‘t want to be shared. But that seems old fashioned so I start to entertain the thought. Could I really do something like that?

The only guy I find even remotely interesting is this weird, brooding graduate student. A friend of a friend, who always seems to be around but doesn‘t exactly fit in. He‘s completely different than all the downtown artsy guys I know. A small-town boy, a scientist, here in the big city doing his master‘s degree. We‘ve never really talked, but I find him kind of cute. He‘s tall, with awful glasses and the worst long hair. But there‘s something about him. I kinda like that he gives zero fucks about what anyone thinks of him.

The Scientist drinks three pints of beer to every regular guy‘s one. He whistles to get the waitress‘s attention, which we all find mortifying. He sits with us, but doesn‘t really talk to anybody. He hasn‘t seen the latest Thomas Vinterberg film. I don‘t even think he reads books! You can tell he thinks we‘re all a bunch of big-city snobs, which of course we totally are. But he likes Top-40 music. And watches football. The Musician can‘t stand him, but I have been completely awakened from my elitist stupor by his very presence.

On this Wednesday in the bar, The Musician is holding court as he always does, orating on some political issue or another with everyone‘s rapt attention. Bored, I look across the table and find The Scientist just staring at me, his arched eyebrow indicating he thinks my boyfriend is a blowhard and also that he knows that deep down I agree. And so I smirk at him, and he smirks back, and this is all it takes for us to fall in love.

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