When I was in 11th grade, my French teacher, Mr. Lawrence, organised an exchange for our class to Montreal. At the time - I'm sure Mr. Trudeau was still in the PMO that year - the Canadian government encouraged and financially supported such exchanges because, at the time, east/west relations in Canada were pretty crusty... Oh wait. that still happens.
Anyway, we were billeted with families whose kids attended Polyvalente Jeanne-Mance. I was billeted with a gal, Manon, who had a brother, Stephane, who had a best friend, who I fell completely in love with the second he walked in the door. I was 16 and he was 15 ...
After that exchange, I went back to Montreal for the summer. I stayed with him - which is to say in his parent's house. It was utterly glorious. The city I live in is large but 30 years ago, not so much. Montreal on the other hand; wow. Add to the incredible soul of that city a boy (he was much a man even then) who loved his city, his culture and his language and was more than willing to share it all and it was a heady, wonderful experience.
We were together four years, amazingly enough for such young people, and eventually moved together back to my city. I cannot imagine why such a young man would consent to drive all the way across the country but that we did. And that's where it all started to go bad.
If you've been in here before you will have gleaned a bit about my mother...
My boyfriend and I had lived together by this time over 2 years. My mother would have nothing of that so he found a basement suite not too far from us, in the home of a very elderly - and deaf-ish - woman from our church.
I didn't know the woman well at all - I knew her for a long time but I was only 20 at the time and she was very old so yeah, we weren't out drinking together very often.... Most importantly, I didn't know that she didn't care a hoot what was going on in her basement suite as long as the house wasn't burning down.
My mother is obsessed with EVERYTHING that other people are doing, especially if it happens to involve sex. I grew up in a very, very sick environment where it concerns sex so, the idea of doing it with my boyfriend in the house of a woman from my church, someone who knew my mother, utterly, utterly freaked me out. Badly.
Not surprisingly, some weeks on, both he and I were, let's say, grumpy as hell.
Meanwhile, I was living at home, missing my life in Montreal terribly and, much worse, missing my boyfriend intensely and suffering - and I mean suffering - the daily barrage of my mother's insanity.
About four months after we moved back to my city, things had got to a crisis. Without one knowing my mother, it's impossible to understand why I would have capitulated but that's what usually happens to people who are abused. Finally laying down and letting one's soul perish is the only means of staying borderline sane. So when my crazy mother suggested that, because my lovely, sweet, helpful boyfriend was helping his landlady's gay son move, that he was also gay, I bit.
Imagine you are a puppy. For a couple days, your new owners are happy to have you around. But shortly, reality sets in and your owners decide that the best place for you is out of their hair and into a small crate, into which they poke a stick many times a day. After some months, you are confused, angry and sore from being endlessly prodded, mind and body. That's what living with my mother was like, so, when she observed that my boyfriend was probably gay and actually hated me, I was furious. But she is so crazy and such a stranger to reason that there was no way to fight her (I wanted to kill her, truth be known) so I lashed out at him.
I regret what I said to this day - and this day is 30 years on.
He and I broke up very soon after that. He went on to meet and eventually marry a woman he met out here and had two sons with her. I also married - a disaster, but that's another blog. With perhaps the exception of the first three months I was married, I dreamt of him every month after. EVERY. Always dreams that we were friends and close and always warm and comforting and, as much as I always woke from those dreams missing him terribly, I was glad to dream, regardless.
Six years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Montreal. I had kept in very, very limited contact with his wife, so hadn't entirely lost touch but I was terrified to call him, mostly because I was so embarrassed at what I'd said to him all those years prior. Regardless. I called his house, left a message and died a thousand deaths of embarrassment because I instantly regretted the call....
But he rang me back at the hotel I was staying at - also leaving a message - and said, to my utter wonderment, that he was glad I'd called and was surprised at how good my French still was.
He asked if we could meet for coffee so I rang him back and agreed to meet him on the south shore.
I would say it was awkward but not in the "why are we doing this" way. More for the many years of unsaid words on my part, I guess. Anyway, because it had been eating me for so many years, I was happy to have an opportunity to say I was sorry and to thank him for what he'd blessed with with (a very functional second language) and that I was very glad to see him.
I suppose it sounds stupid after so many years had passed but I really, really needed to apologise for what I'd said to him. He said he didn't remember and regardless, he held nothing against me - which didn't surprise me because I didn't know him as one who would hold a grudge. I could write volumes on this man, who was a man long before most young men are.
The reason my French was and still is good, by the way, is that he was a brilliant and patient teacher, who spent hours teaching me how to get my English tongue around French vowel and consonant combinations. Yes, I hear what you're thinking and yeah, that too...
After that meeting, to my great sadness, I stopped dreaming of him. I was glad to have had the chance to apologize and clear the air but I was devastated the dreams stopped. Until last night.
Earlier in the day I had been to my sister's. She lives in an 850 square foot house on land less than 300 feet from where my mother also lives in a huge, empty, echoing rancher. I didn't see my mother - another blog - but being in the vicinity of that insanity screws me up for days. I never know what will surface from contact - or near-contact in this case.
Earlier this year, I went searching on FaceBook on the off chance my old boyfriend would be on there. FB hasn't been hugely popular in the east until recently, so I didn't expect to find him, but there he was. So I popped him a note. And he replied... and then we talked for an hour on a messaging service.
Last night, I had a vivid and endless dream. I was utterly shocked to wake up and find myself here, in this place, and to realise it was only a dream, so much so that I felt tears of disappointment coming.
I don't know what it all means but, as unbelievably guilty as I feel about it all - because I have a wonderful spouse - I'm glad the dreams are back. How is it possible to miss someone so deeply when they've been out of a life for so long?