Episode VII: In love and death
// JJ Brewis

I’ve had my heart broken enough times that you'd think it wouldn't hurt anymore. However, every time a new romance embarks, my history just seems to repeat itself. When I'm in the thick of it (pun intended, sorry), I'm level-headed and able to rationalize about how it would feel if the situation ended; but when it eventually ends, even if it's on my accord, the emotional side of me takes over.

I do my best to not get attached to guys I'm seeing until it's reached a legitimate amount of time. When I was younger, a first date would mean the world, and despite its outcome, I'd be automatically compelled to assume whomever I'd just met was my future husband and start planning the rest of our life together like some sort of crazy person. But in my wise old age, I am dismissive to a fault. Perhaps a happy medium makes sense, but I'm not exactly there. Just last week, I failed to call a guy back for telling me I had a "serious case of gay voice." I mean, really.

I met someone a few years ago, and we had a very brief but tumultuous love affair that may haunt me for the rest of my life. A mutual friend who he worked with introduced us after thinking we would hit it off. It was more than that "Oh, you're both gay" bullshit that some friends pull when trying to set up the only homosexual people they know. My friend's co-worker Jeremy and I actually seemed to share some common threads. Despite the fact that he was five years my junior, we wore the same oversized glasses and dressed the same, listened to all the same music, and had the same sense of humour. We were both vegetarian; we'd both lost a parent; we shared a birthday.
My time dating Jeremy lasted about two or so months, and remains one of my more pleasant dating experiences to this day. It was the first time I felt like I really had one of those romances from the movies that I'd always admired. We formed a really quick bond that amazed me as well as everyone around me.

Perhaps the intensity of the relationship is what accelerated its demise. Although he closed the first date with "I love you", I wasn't scared off like one normally would be in such a case. We shared quite an emotive time together: he told me heart-wrenching stories about losing his mother to cancer the previous summer, and about a damaging bike accident in Paris which temporarily left him in a coma. It seemed as though we could tell each other very serious things, and I revealed a few things about myself to him that I've never revealed to any of best friends, let alone a romantic prospect.

I spent the next eight weeks in a kind of bliss, constantly checking my phone at work, trying to outdo myself for cute date ideas, and wondering if I could somehow find a way to make this feeling last – but amidst all of the flowers and kisses was a ticking clock. There was something brewing inside of Jeremy, and the part of him that I knew was only a fragment of the big picture.

We reached such a high level of comfort really fast, and the friends who I was living with at the time were concerned my bruised heart wouldn't be able to take it if we broke up. Of course, naturally, that happened. I could tell that the stress of his physical rehabilitation and emotionally processing his mother's death were huge roadblocks for him personally, because he talked to me about them. He was also immensely devoted to his education and his volunteer work at an organic farm. Between all of this, he told me he really couldn't continue seeing me because he knew that I deserved more of a time commitment. Having been on the shitty end of the break up stick several times, I can easily decipher the difference between truth and bullshit, and I knew Jeremy was being honest with me. He told me that he loved spending time together, but fostering a relationship wasn't really in his capabilities.

About six months after we stopped seeing each other, I ended up getting a job in the accounting office at the same grocery store where Jeremy worked. Shortly before Christmas, I was halfway through a shift when a knock came on the door, with one of the cashiers arriving to pick up their till. I opened the door, sitting on the floor, half-covered in deposit bags and coin boxes, before I realized it was him. Luckily we were both equally shocked to see each other, which was uncomfortable as hell. Although I’d been told he left the store before I was hired, it turned out he came back to pick up a few shifts around the break while school was out.

Jeremy disappeared after the Christmas break, and the last time he came to pick up his till from my office, I wished him a happy holiday. I remember thinking that he looked particularly pale, and sad. Our exchanges at work were usually quite short, both given the way the store operated, and also just to avoid potential awkwardness, I guess. But this shift was two days before Christmas, and I stopped him before he took off: "How are you?" He stopped and looked really upset. "I can't really get into it, but things are just kind of weird right now," he told me. His boss came up behind him, so he had to go, but before he left that day we agreed we'd meet up for coffee over the Christmas break.

Well, the coffee never happened. Jeremy never came back to the store, and as time went on, life got busy and meeting up seemed like less of a priority, as neither of us ever seemed to pursue it. It was only a few months after the holidays, though, that I was reminded of him, when I logged into Facebook and saw that one of Jeremy's friends had uploaded a memorial page to him. He had passed away that day after a years-long battle with cancer; something unbeknownst to me, as he'd never mentioned it at all.

Although we weren't together at the time of his passing, a massive sadness filled me. I’ve experienced my share of deaths, but this one really hit hard. After I'd cried and felt guilty, I realized that in a personal relationship, he may have been the most honest person I've been involved with. The secrets I'd told him never came back to me, and believe me, they would have. Carrying someone else's baggage to your grave must be a hard task, especially when that person has no idea you're fading by the day.

It's been almost a year since he died, and among all my regrets, I feel a sense of self-worth in that relationship, just in how honest and real it was, despite its fleeting nature. It makes me just drill home the point of not wanting to waste my time with men who feel like they have something to prove. It was the subtleties that keep my heart inclined.

JJ Brewis is quite possibly the keenest member of our editorial staff. He has been writing columns on various topics for the Courier for three years, and is now revisiting his most successful theme: relationships.

//JJ Brewis, columnist
//Graphics by Lydia Fu

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