It was a late September evening, and Dan was sitting in our living room in a green leather chair that was lopsided and had claw marks raked through the thin material; the laptop was balanced on his knees and I was crouched beside him on the floor with my arms folded on the arm rest and my nose buried under my left elbow. Dan's fingers were clickety-clicking over the keys for awhile, then it was quiet.
"Alright," he sighed, leaning back heavily in the chair. "That's it. It's booked. I leave in just over a month."
A plane ticket to Switzerland. Without me.
No job when he landed.
A potential return date five months from when he departed, should the job hunt not be bountiful.
I burst into tears.
The week before Dan left I was in a dizzy haze. He was ploughing through his clothes and belongings, deciding what to throw away, what to save for a potential move, and what to immediately pack with him. During these purges I generally would be lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling and thinking, "Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out."
I was an emotional wreck: we were going after what we wanted, but the ensuing months were going to be hard. Though as I lay on the floor, staring at the popcorn ceiling of our 1970's newly renovated apartment, I had absolutely no idea how hard it would be.
But in order to make it, I knew I had to keep remembering breathe in, breathe out.
I constantly felt like I had just stepped a shaky foot off that carnival G-force ride known as the Zipper. For days, bile was the only taste at the back of my throat. My eyes were red rimmed from lack of sleep, too much crying, and an irritating dryness from standing directly in front of a wind tunnel that was tossing me around against my will, even though I had willed that wind tunnel to throw my life into chaos.
We threw a going-away, good luck, dinner for Dan and I kept a magnum of sparkling wine next to my plate and got sloppily drunk. All the pictures show me laughing.
I was terrified.
November 9, 2009 was the longest night. We stayed awake for hours and hours, trying not to fall asleep, but eventually loosing the battle. At 5 a.m. I heard the shower running, and I felt my stomach twist into a ball of anxiety that would (in hindsight) remain that way for the next seven months.
Dan gave each of the cats a long hug, kissed his coffee table good-bye, and in the stillness of a bitterly cold 5:30 morning we left the apartment to drive to the airport. We went slow, hardly speaking, creeping towards that shale ledge that felt like it was going to crumble under our feet.
At the airport we stared at each other across a cafeteria table, holding hands, letting our coffees grow cold, while telling each other it would be fine. What we were doing was easy compared to the separations others had no choice over. And considering the following day was Remembrance Day, I felt so egocentric to be feeling sadness over the fact my husband going to Europe to find a job. It's not like he was going to war. Like we would never hold hands again. I felt so self-absorbed to bemoan a departure that we had booked the ticket for, that we had planned for and been excited for.
But it still didn't make saying goodbye any easier.
Kamloops has a small airport, and it's a bit unusual to see people crying at the departures gate. Especially at 6:30 in the morning when the rest of the passengers are business people heading to Vancouver for a day of meetings.
People stared, and I wanted to tell them all to f-ck off and mind their own business.
I watched Dan go through security, before I fled the airport and drove home through a screen of tears.
Everyone told me I didn't have to go work that day, but I went anyhow because it was easier than staying at home feeling sorry for myself when I had no reason to feel sorry.
He called me from Toronto at lunch time.
He was on his way.
That night my sisters came over to keep me company.
It was the first time I actually realized that if I moved, we wouldn't be near each other anymore.
That wasn't a good night.
I slept on his side of the bed.
He called me at 3:52 a.m. to tell me he'd landed safely and was at his family's house. I was wide awake, waiting for the call.
November 11, 2009.