I met my ex husband by eerie coincidence. I was nineteen years old and living in London, England on a working holiday visa. It was January 2008, and I was looking for a second job, possibly one of the worst moments in history to do so. My best friend was visiting me for three weeks and she was helping me look for work, paying special attention to adds in shop windows. We saw an ad on the window of an exotic-looking corner café. It was written in questionable French, and was looking for French lessons from a native speaker. ‘‘Inquire within,’’ it said. Without missing a beat, my best friend said, ‘’Let’s go!’’
We went in. I was surprised to discover that the person in question was a 23-year-old Polish boy wearing a purple American Apparel hoodie (it was still trendy at the time). We spoke for five minutes and he took my number in order to have a ‘‘trial lesson.’’
A week later, I showed up at another café on the same street.
He had all of his material prepared. All that I had to do was to speak to him in French and translate obscure expressions. My Quebec accent was challenging for him but he was up for the challenge. I found him very serious, but I could tell that he was a good person and that we would work well together.
A few months later, he told me: ‘‘I didn’t think you were the best teacher the first day. But you were so funny that I knew I had to see you again.’’
Twice a week, we met in a café for two hours where we tackled the difficulties of the French language. We spoke about our lives and so we became closer. My dating life at that point was horrible: I kept dating guys that didn’t want to be in a relationship, or slept with me and then ignored me, or other similar situations.
When I was with P., things were different. I felt a degree of trust I had not previously encountered.
One day, he invited me to his place for dinner. I arrived late. He kept texting me: ‘‘When are you coming?’’ I arrived dripping wet and very late. He was with chilling with his roommate in the living room. They had already eaten, but had kept food for me. His roommate wasn’t very talkative with me, and so we ended up continuing the conversation in P.’s bedroom. There was sexual tension growing between us. We got closer, almost to the point of kissing.
‘’I don’t know if it’s a good idea,’’ he said.
‘‘Yeah, but it’s hard to help it,’’ I answered.
We ended up kissing and sleeping together fully dressed, and he hugged me the whole night, not letting me go even once. I knew right then and there that he was a keeper. But I had a little problem: a week before, I had planned a date with a guy I had a crush on and it was scheduled for the next day. In the morning, P. asked to see me again that night, and stupidly I answered that I had a date. He became pissed off and jealous. I should have lied.
Our next lesson was scheduled for the next day. It was February 14th, 2009. I arrived at the café puzzled and sad because my date had abandoned me in the middle of the night and I felt very guilty for pissing P. off.
I had also lost my phone the night before. P. arrived an hour late. He had texted me but I didn’t receive it. He came wearing his black leather jacket, saying ‘‘I know it’s cheesy, but…’’ and proceeded to take out a single red rose from under his jacket. My heart melted. He had me. It took only a couple of dates to know that we were a new couple. He was the first guy to consistently take me out on dates to the restaurant, to the park, to bike rides around the city. We were two kids, expats living in East London, happy about having each other. I moved to his place three and a half months after the beginning of our relationship and it cemented our affections.
We began to have deep conversations about our future: I had to come back to Canada eventually as my visa was running out. I waited for him for a couple of months so he could have his temporary passport. We travelled to France together and hung out with my dad at a film festival for which he was the official photographer. We went to the beach and it was his first time there: he was glad I took him. We went to Paris, where he applied for a visitor visa and it got refused. We didn’t know what to make of the future quite yet.
We parted ways in Marseille, on a train platform, a scene reminiscent of a dramatic romance movie. I remember thinking that I might never see him again, or at least not for a while. The train left and I cried.
I got back to Montreal on a damp and depressing day. I was weirded out by everything about my hometown: its accents, its architecture, its culture. I had to learn how to live again. Meanwhile, P. moved to Berlin and applied for a long-term passport, which he was granted after a month and a half. He moved to Montreal on November 25th, 2009. We did not know that we would get married at that point. It was after many meetings with government immigration experts that we came to the conclusion that it would be the best option if we wanted to stay together.
We hashed and re-hashed the decision. We were scared as shit because we were very young and we had already made huge commitments to each other. First the move, now the wedding. We got married because we felt like family at that point. I got married because I wanted to have somebody to rely on, and to have somebody rely on me. To have a real exchange and commitment towards each other, as opposed to silly young loves that lead to nothing.
We got married on January 14th, 2010, on a cold and grey day. It was a lovely and small wedding, with only my best friends and my parents in attendance. We ate and we drank and laughed.
The next day after waking up, I knew that I had made the biggest decision of my life. I was happy but scared, and I think my intuition was on to something.
That winter was by far my harshest yet. While we were together, P. couldn’t work because he wasn’t on any visa that enabled him to. I was working part-time in a café. It was still the economic crisis and jobs were hard to find. Needless to say, we were broke, but it’s not like we weren’t trying.
A couple of months into our marriage, I came to the realization that I was not in love anymore. I was on my way home when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember going back home, taking a shower and crying, gasping for air.
P. was sad and became lazy. He wouldn’t get groceries when I gave him money to but preferred to spend the day staring at his laptop screen. He was an introvert, so he was mainly only friends with my friends. It was hard for him to get out of his cocoon. That being said, our couple dynamic became very hard to bear and I didn’t feel in love, but rather responsible. I turned twenty-one and I felt as though I had a child to take care of.
We moved to a new place that summer, and he was unhappy with it. We kept fighting. We finally separated on July 26th, 2010. He told me that there was work for him in London and that he could go back. I didn’t stop him. I had had enough. We had fought so much and we were in such a difficult situation that I needed fresh air, but yet I didn’t know how to live without him.
I was supposed to say goodbye to him the day after my best friend had thrown a huge party. I came home sad and hungover. The house was empty. Some of his stuff was there, so I assumed that he had just gone to the corner store or something. I started cleaning and waiting for him. Half an hour later, I realized that something was wrong. I went back to the bedroom and looked at the stuff he had left. I realized that he was gone. I gasped out loud and started crying.
I went outside to the pharmacy and to the grocery store to buy some food and cleaning supplies. I felt so vulnerable, like a baby bird venturing out of her nest for the first time.
I felt like I was coming out of a coma, a feeling I’ve never felt at any other time. As I was walking down the street, my florist stopped me. ‘‘Hey, what’s wrong? You look sad.’’ ‘’I just broke up with my boyfriend…’’ I answered.
‘‘There, there!’’ She started picking up flowers from various containers and putting them together to create a beautiful bouquet. She was now telling me about her own ex-husband and separation. ‘‘It’s better to be alone than to be with somebody that’s wrong for you,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s a beautiful day!’’ she said, and I smiled when I turned the corner. I was starting to feel free.
Getting over him and our failed marriage was not easy. In some ways, I feel that I will never completely get over it. But I’m happy that I got married young because I tested my limits and someone else’s. I had to grow up and learn how to be responsible fast. I also learned that fighting endlessly leads to nothing.
Two years ago, I saw P. again in London and I understood why I loved him but also why we are not together anymore. I care about him so much, but it’s another kind of love now, it’s like an old friend that I need to keep in touch with. It’s now been a little over four whole years that me and P. have been separated. It’s horrific how time flies. We are both realizing that now. We talked on the phone a couple of weeks ago. We still need to talk in order to update each other on our respective lives.
The reason why we haven’t divorced yet is simply because I am still a student and I don’t have the means to do so before finishing my Master next year. But I’m looking forward to divorce. I’m not scared. I know that it will be a private celebration between both of us. It will be a departure from our past and our lives chained together by the links of marriage.
We will meet up again, dress up and go out for lunch. We’ll have food, hang out and have a drink. It will assuredly bring a sense of closure. We will find our full freedom again. It’s going to be a new departure. Another cycle will begin. Who knows, I might even get married again.
Photo: Olivier Gariépy http://ogariepy.tumblr.com/
Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Associate Editor of Blonde. She is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.