By Tony X Stanton
I stood on the terrace having a quiet smoke at 11pm with only 6 empty chairs and 3 tables for company. Standing in the shadows beside a taped off area with a pool that seemed to be full of green slime. Just being within ten feet of it made me worry about catching some terrible disease. As I took another draw on my cigarette, one of my last English ones I’d bought while going through Heathrow 2 weeks earlier, I heard a noise unlike any other. It seems, in defiance against all normality, the Canadians like to have their fire trucks sound like bad 1970’s ghost trains. As someone used to the more traditional English ones, this left me standing there giggling to myself. A laughing figure in the shadows billowing smoke.
As I looked up at the skyscrapers one jumped out as me as being very similar to the Oscorp building in Spiderman. This made me wonder had I walked into some genetic experiment by accident? Was the Green Goblin or a slimy jade demon going to rise from the disgusting green slimy pool? Sadly it seemed not. I was just stuck with the god awful smell emanating from the ‘swimming pool’. I was glad I was staying for two weeks on the 19th floor in room 1020 far removed from this vileness..
I’d moved to Montreal in Quebec, Canada, for a year for work. I’d spent 6 months in my hometown, drank all the beer any man could wish for, connected with people I hadn’t had a chance to for many years and basically had one big 6 month party. I’d ran out of money, borrowed off my parents and girlfriend (who is an angel unlike any other) to move here for a ‘big chance’ working in the film visual effects industry in a lead position. That made me feel guilty, as I hate having to borrow money off people, it makes me feel beholden to them. It’s a weird quirk of mine. It feels like a terminal itch I can’t get rid of until I pay them back.
I’ve been lucky enough to live a lot of places in my time working in either visual effects or computer games. I’d spent a long time in Dublin, and enjoyed it so much I’m convinced I’d be dead if I had spent another six months there. I’d spent 8 months living in Edinburgh in Scotland whose only redeeming features were getting to have a drink with a mate I’d known for over a decade and meeting Louise.
I’d always found it easy to work away. I simply put everyone I knew back home in a little mental box and kept them there and made a new life while I was away. Once a day I’d let them out of this mental box to think about them,or chat to them on Skype. Then back into the fucking box they’d go and get locked away for another 24 hours. I always had a habit of being able to separate people I knew into these little mental cases in my head to keep myself sane and also to give me freedom to change who I was every single time I worked away for any length of time.
My two kids were the hardest though. They, although small enough to fit into a box, had such love and joy and held such an important place in my heart that they often escaped from this mental box in my head and invaded my thoughts like rampaging monkeys. But I simply see that as part of being a dad.They will always be there in my head making their presence felt…and I love them for it.
But there was one thing I hadn’t considered before moving away for a year of my life. One thing I had assumed would be the same as it had always been. When I was with my ex being away was easy, although we get on great now and still see each other as best friends. We argued like cat and dog. So I’m sure she got as much of a rest from the arguing as I did when I worked away.I don’t think I have ever had a relationship that wasn’t like that. It was just ‘normal’ to me. so being away even for extended times wasnt that big a deal.
But this time things had changed…
They had changed a LOT!….
When I was in Edinburgh it was one of the darkest periods of my recent life for a whole host of reasons, some personal some not. But I had met Louise. It started as friends, we hung out together, a relationship formed, and like a small fragile flower it grew. Both of us knew that at some point I would leave Edinburgh and go back to my home town of Consett. Louise was from London by the way, not Scotland. The trouble was you see, that after 43 years on this planet I had finally found ‘The One’. That carries a whole demon host of things that go with it.
Yes I was paranoid of having another relationship that would go bad or not end well.. so I decided that logic was my friend. I spent months from the point when I was living in Edinburgh, through to moving back to my home town (with Louise still coming down every weekend to visit me), right up till iI was in Montreal to work out all the possible permutations and the permutations of the permutations. I knew how I felt about her, that simply seeing her made me smile and lit up my day every time I talked to her. We never argued. She’d seen me at my very best and my godawful worst but was never phased at all. She cared for me and would advise me but would never ever nag me or make any troubles, real or perceived, any worse.
I loved her, and finally I bit the bullet and let her know how I felt. We’d avoided the ‘L’ word for nearly a year. as it came with oh so much baggage that a 43 year old man can have with him. I’ll never forget how she looked when I finally uttered the words ‘I love you’. It’ll live with me to my dying day. How her face lit up as if by a million suns dancing across her face.
So here comes the kicker!
When you find ‘The one’… that mythical person who you are meant to be with that all good bad and indifferent romantic novels and films tell us is out there somewhere, its like you are a jigsaw but don’t realise you are missing a piece until you find it. Suddenly it makes sense….all of it. But then being apart tears away at your very soul like a pack of rabid hounds.
By week 2 it was already wrenching inside of me and pulling away at my guts and my brain. So I had to come up with a plan to ensure this wasnt all in vain. That I wouldn’t lose another relationship to the visual effects industry.This one would last damnit..I had finally found the one…against all expectations. So I realised I must now try to protect this relationship from the grim reaper that is the visual effects industry that chews up and spits out relationships
So my plan is a simple one. Step one is to not try to change who I am as a person. Step two is to make sure I don’t start a whole new life over here and that I turn up at the end of this exactly the same person that Louise drove to the airport. Step three is one I was going to take anyway. After 6 months of letting the little 17 year old version of me out of his mental cage I realised I couldn’t keep on drinking 6 days out of seven and living every evening in the pub. At a conservative estimate I was probably a maximum of 6 months away for alcoholism. Luckily it’s not easy or cheap to get a drink in Montreal! While there are places you can go for a drink almost everywhere, nearly all of them are places that do meals and that can get real expensive real fast. So now if I want to go to a simple bar I have to take two metro trains and a 30 minute walk. As such I only have a drink on a Friday and Saturday night. No more mega piss ups…no more rolling in at 4 or 5am. I drink 3 drinks then I come home. The rest of my night is spent usually alone, deep in thought and people watching. This is the first time I am not hunting out ‘people like me’ to party with. I’m being sensible. I’m being an adult. So while I know for a certain fact some crazy things will happen during my time in Montreal, there won’t be as many epic stories as there have been.
But I will of course pass on the crazy stories or interesting things that happen while I’m over here. With any luck, if I can last a year without missing both my two kids and my girlfriend Louise too much (which right now to be honest is fucking touch and go!..and I’m only on week 4!) If I can also come back the very same man who went away, if Louise can do the same, then I’ll be the happiest guy on this big ball of mud earth and water. Now that I’ve found ‘The one’ I am meant to spend my life with, I have no intention of ever letting her go. Some things are worth fighting for some people are worthy of a sacrifice…and Louise is worth that and more. But yet again men aren’t supposed to say such things, we’re supposed to be gruff and not admit to our feelings. However …doesn’t that make us a little too close to robots?
In the meantime I’ll be sitting here observing …wondering why there are so few birds in Montreal…why fire trucks sound like ghost trains and why I bother going to bars if I am just going to sit on my own and take mental notes on strangers for future articles. But one day I’ll go back home, I’ll see my two kids, and I’ll hug my parents and brother. ..and Louise well that’s a story for a different time maybe a year from now…if I can last that long without her.