Forty long years ago, I met a guy and fell. It was one of those holiday things: I was visiting Canada from England, where I was living, and was heading back there in a week or so. He was—is—a choreographer-dancer on a trajectory that would end in brilliant success, awards, esteem. I, on the other hand, was muddling through, though I daresay looking rather pretty with it.
My heart, not for the first or the last time, broke; cracked like porcelain, erupted like Vesuvius, and when our sojourn of sex ended I experienced, not for the first or the last time, the sensation that an essential part of me had been—not lopped off, oh no; more like maimed, and I would henceforth and forever have to drag around this mangled horror while putting on a brave face and pretending I was whole.
At the beginning of October, 2016, we saw each other again, for the first time since 1978. I was then 61. He was, I would like to say, ageless, and I know he would like that, too. I went to visit him in Quyon, about sixty miles outside Ottawa on the Gatineau, Québec side of things.
He had been living in a outwardly ramshackle four-storey beast of a house that, in fact, once you got past the front doors, revealed a mix of modern necessities and even luxuries—under which rubric does a sunken, heart-shaped bathtub fall, I wonder—and that eclectic, eccentric collector’s style that makes a dwelling into a cozy and endlessly fascinating museum of one’s life.
This is where he had held workshops, mentored dancers, acted as a choreographic dramaturge for visiting groups. And his time here was coming to an end: the house sold during the four days I was there.
The past is another planet. I no longer know either of the young men who inhabited it. When it was time to leave, when he held me and I wept like my heart would break yet again and yet again, I had a dizzying, frantic perception, like a film reel scattering its millions of individual cells, of the arc of time that bound this moment to our first.
Every act contributed: every time I had chosen one street over another, one particular meal, whether or not to skip class, or to hold my tongue or speak my mind, to be friends or enemies or whether to eat toast with jam or drink my coffee black: Like Alice on the recalcitrant road that mocks her plucky determination and flings her back to the present at every attempt to escape, my freedom had been illusory, and I, too, ended up at a destination I could never have foreseen.
This is, I believe, the perception I will have at the moment of my death: Roses touching my fingers when I am an infant, reaching up to a sun burning through summer curtains, my anxious mother’s cheek pressed to mine, all my loves and my cruelties, my grief and my regrets falling away as I step over the boundary
beyond which, for all I know, I may meet her again, meet each and every one of them again, face to beloved face.
all photos © 2019, David Roddis.