The Beast whipped up a beautiful dinner earlier this week. He boiled little potatoes and green beans, grilled some trout, and dressed it all with grainy mustard, white wine vinegar, shallots, and olive oil. Personally, I would have kept the grilled trout on the side but I’ve learned to keep these dark thoughts to myself.
And besides, I was wrong. It was an excellent meal.
While we ate and watched the 1995 film adaptation of Othello I asked the Beast about an email he’d sent me earlier in the day. He titled it: “Can we please please pleeeeeeeeeease” and there was a link to a Kijiji ad selling a four-year-old Persian cat named “Tubby” for $400.
What I wanted to know was how the Beast even came across this web page. I know he has odd Googling habits, which direct him to vintage Missoni and Patagonia sweaters, 1960s Land Art, and that Othello movie, but a Kijiji ad for a $400 cat seemed out of the ordinary–even for him.
“I was looking up home remedies for depression and anxiety,” he told me. I looked into his eyes, waiting for him to break his act and tell me the truth.
“Really though?” I said.
“No, not really. But isn’t Tubby gorgeous?”
Tubby looked like a real winner. But my eyes would swell up into two little piss holes if that puss and I were in the same room.
A more practical home remedy for undiagnosed anxiety and depression was a visit to Prince Edward Island over the long weekend. Our friends Nat and Chris invited us to join them at Nat’s mom’s place. What’s the worst thing that could happen, we thought, while spending three days with two people we’ve only ever seen together in three-hour increments?
Turns out, the worst that happened was getting a couple of mosquito bites–as we ran through tall grasses like Anne and Diana on the way to the beach.
We left the house and beach only once: to get lobster rolls from Richard’s.
Every other meal was prepared by Chris, who co-owns Brothers, a restaurant in Toronto. He made us carpaccio, lobster spaghetti, steamed mussels, prime rib, and chowder. During the last meal–that chowder–I hesitated to tell him that it was the best chowder I’d ever had because I didn’t want him to think I was being insincere because I’d already said it about everything else he’d made us. And every time I really meant it.
We also consumed a great deal of very good wine. But I don’t think a particularly fine bottle of nebbiolo was entirely the cause of me crying at the dinner table close to midnight after our first meal together. I just happened to be very tightly wound. And as we all talked of family, of childhood, of our hopes, and of the future, while the sound of the sea and the wind hummed in the background, my insides came crashing out onto the table.
More odd than that emotional display was that the next morning I didn’t even feel all that embarrassed about it. I just felt better.
By the by, we’re not terrible house guests who don’t do their fare share of helping out. We made a dinner too: hot dogs, which Chris readied in the kitchen while we swam, which we cooked over a bonfire that Chris built.
Back in Toronto, as we made our way through Terminal 3 to find the new express train home, the TV show I work on was playing on multiple screens. It happened to be an episode I co-hosted. There was my face, at the baggage claims and the gates at 10:00 p.m. on a Monday night. “Take my picture!” I squealed to the Beast. I wanted to send the photo to my mom. But the Beast looked like a parent who is just trying to pick up the goddamn milk and bread from the grocery store and get home but their kid becomes fixated on a chocolate bar in aisle 5 and is messing up the plan.
I love seeing kids misbehave in grocery stores, especially those little guys who just fall on the ground and their parents are literally dragging their limp bodies down the cereal aisle.
Of course, I don’t know how it feels as a parent because I don’t have kids, which was brought up back at work right after P.E.I. During an Instagram Live in which viewers could ask me anything–including how do you channel your confidence? (I don’t know because as I get older I have so much less of it)–several people asked about my decision to not be a mother. I had no idea how to answer it. I stumbled a bit, or a lot I suppose–until my colleague Lainey shouted “stay out of her uterus!” I wish I’d been clear enough in the head to simply say: “There are plenty of things I’d like to do in this life. But being a mother isn’t one of them. Sometimes this makes me sad. But that doesn’t make it any less true.”
No matter, because the anxiety I had about work, which cleared up during our little vacation, crept back up into my chest.
I suppose it started about a month ago. Actually, it’s been three years of ups and downs. But one night in early August, the Beast and I met up for Korean food on College St. and I talked a mile a minute about our annual two-week October vacation and what I’d narrowed it down to.
At first I sunk my teeth into Morocco but the trip got too complicated. I didn’t want to spend two days here, taking a plane or a train to another place where we’d spend 36 hours. I wanted to hold still; take time To Figure Things Out. Nature! That’s what I needed. I’m talking Arizona and Utah. I’m talking Zion and Bryce and Escalante and oh god Monument Valley is kind of close but so is Santa Fe! The Beast has always wanted to visit these places. But that trip got too big too.
The Beast, very delicately, asked me a question: Do you think, he said, that maybe me investing so much time every year in this trip–the planning, the obsessing, searching for perfect vistas–is maybe me running away from something? Imagine if I spent a few weeks thinking about how I’d like my future to look. Imagine investing that focus and determination into my career.
Well, fuck me. After sulking for the rest of the meal and on our bike ride home, I lashed out at him about how he has obsessions too. Oh yes he does! All those books he buys and those DVDs he rents and closets full of clothes he doesn’t wear. What are you running away from? At least my obsession benefits him. What do your four parkas do for me? All they do is make it impossible to get out the goddamn ironing board from the closet because there are 100 coats in there. Sure, I wear many of them but that’s not the point. And besides, the point of these trips is for me To Figure Things Out.
It’s like if I create a perfect moment, the clouds will clear and the path I’m supposed to take will present itself. I will know what I’m supposed to do, to be.
Has that every happened? Well no, not precisely.
So is he right? Yes. Did that stop me from booking another trip to Greece?
I swear it’s a simple trip, mostly because it will be the third year in a row going back, with few moving parts–five nights in the Mani, where we’ve always wanted to return, five nights on the island of Hydra where there are no cars, and two nights in Athens before flying back home. There will be very little running around. And I can bring my computer and write because we are staying at places with with so many terraces! So many vistas! I can work on those projects I always say I will finish (and ok actually start) if only I had more time! I can take control! Or even settle for having the illusion of being in control! And in between we can hike and swim and visit ancient sites and eat and drink and laugh and love and maybe I’ll figure it all out!
Maybe this time, the path will present itself. Or maybe I’ll come home with some comfort in knowing that few find it in the first place.
Or fuck it. Maybe we’ll just bring home Tubby.