We started hanging out over his Christmas break. It seemed that whenever we were both single, somehow we found ourselves back together. Not officially, of course, but we’d meet at a pub to catch up and talk and the electricity was always still there.
He made me feel connected to a part of myself that I didn’t feel I could be around anyone else. He questioned things and I? Well, I avoided conflict. Disagreeing with people was never my forte, but with him I felt like I could. Like he gave me permission to argue; he wanted to rile me up to see where I really stood on things. When push came to shove, what did I really think?
I liked knowing I had an opinion. I liked that he wanted to know what it was.
The pub nights began again the December before I moved away. He was in town for the holidays, I was adjusting to life without my roommate who’d just moved out before her wedding. After the Sunday 8pm mass we’d walk down the road to a seedy little place that always seemed to have the table by the fireplace open for us. We’d drink and talk about life and our families and everything that mattered to us and some things that really didn’t. On the outside he seemed tough, but I always saw him soften in the light from the flames dancing over his impish grin.
He was my first love, but I never got to tell him that. Our relationship was a mere seven months long, over a decade ago. My first real boyfriend, the one I loved but knew wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t that we were too different, but our ideas about what made a good life were a little too much so. Instead of pushing each other to greatness, we would’ve been pulling each other apart.
But that never seemed to cross my mind when we hung out over the years after we broke up.
That winter of beer and long talks made me wonder if I would ever really be over him. In fact, the way our conversations were going, all I wanted to do was give it another go. I was already planning to move away, but he lived on the other side of the country for school anyway, so I figured I needed to at least tell him where I was at. I hadn’t told him how I truly felt when we were together, but I needed to share my honest thoughts now, before it was too late.
I invited him over one afternoon, taking a pause from my preliminary packing to sit and be more direct with him than I ever had while we were dating. He’d surprised me with Starbucks and I sipped that caramel macchiato (my favourite at the time) as we settled into our conversation. We both knew this was different than all those nights at the pub.
“It feels different, us spending time together.,” I told him. “I dunno where you’re at, but all I know is that there’s something here and I know I’m moving, I know you live far away, but I just wanted to put it out there.”
To say he accepted me with grace is an understatement. My memory of what he exactly said and did is probably not entirely trustworthy, but I remember that I felt honoured and respected. He hugged me and agreed that there was something between us, but he gently reminded me that our dreams for what life could be were so different, it just wouldn’t work. We agreed to let it go.
We hugged again before he left. It was the most mature conversation about feelings and expectations I’d ever had with someone and as I watched him walk away, it felt like God had tied a bow on our relationship. I didn’t know I needed that closure, but it felt good to have the gift of it before I moved.
Three months later, another bow arrived.
I saw him with his family at the church. Camera in hand, I walked around to start taking photos of all the guests awaiting the bride’s arrival and smiled at all of them. We could talk later. The wedding mass was about to begin; I needed to focus on my job.
It wasn’t the first time I’d seen him since we broke up two years before that, but I knew it’d be the last time before I moved in a couple months. Our relationship had been intense; when we began dating, we brought up marriage too quickly. Not necessarily of our own doing, but a death in his family brought me into the fold very quickly and talk of marriage cropped up wherever we went.
When I broke up with him just shy of four months together, what I had to say wasn’t necessarily received very well. I knew I was in a place where I felt like I could commit to one person for the rest of my life of my own choosing, but I didn’t think he was. We talked about how a lot of his recent life choices had been up to other people and he was still learning what it meant to choose for himself; he agreed that he needed to work on that. But when it came to actually breaking up, it seemed like that conversation was forgotten when I said that was something he needed to do on his own, that we needed to end things together. He got in his car and squealed off, leaving me to cry in the parking lot at both the loss of the relationship and the hurt of being disrespected in our last moments together.
At the wedding reception later that day he and I started talking. I knew he’d just gotten out of a relationship a couple weeks prior and expressed my sympathies. He sat down on the low concrete wall outside, wine glass tipping precariously in his hand, and told me what had happened. We sat there for a moment after he was finished sharing.
“You know,” he said, breaking the silence. “I understand what you felt two years ago because it’s what I just went through. You were ready to commit, and I wasn’t. I’m sorry for how it all went down.”
I tried to hide my shock – this was the last thing I was expecting to hear from him – and thanked him for recognizing what had happened between us. I accepted his apology.
As we walked back into the hall, I knew I’d just received another gift; our relationship was now tied neatly with a bow.
Another week went by, a week that included driving to Calgary, finding a home to rent, and signing the lease that would begin six weeks later, before I realized there was one more bow I still needed. There was a boy I was still stuck on.
And not all things get tied with a bow.
"They are beautiful photos and I think you captured our day perfectly! You were amazing and made us feel so comfortable and relaxed, you felt like one of the family! Thank you for making the trip out here, it meant a lot to us!
Thank you Thank you Thank you!"
"But you make them comfortable, too. You move through life with such humility and realness that others can't help but be real in your presence. Being a naturally awkward soul, your patience and easygoing way of taking pictures brings out the best in us!"
“The first time I saw our wedding photos, I felt like I was reliving the day all over again. Looking at them now, I still feel that way. It was a gift to have you as part
of our day, reminding us to focus on the now while capturing moments we
wanted to hold forever. We are so grateful for your gorgeous photos that
help us to keep our wedding day close."