Reader, I married him/her.
It’s the happy ending. Lo and behold.
(Ali Smith, Girl meets boy)
This is how they started.
Christine met rob in July 2008 at his poetry workshop at the Collected Works Bookstore and Coffee Bar. She'd moved to Ottawa in February 2008 for contract book conservation work and it was one of her first forays into the Ottawa literary community.
In the beginning, she found him startling, forward, and disconcertingly loud. In the beginning, he thought her skittish, far too quiet, and he wondered if she would be the one in the group who might not show up to the second session. He liked the colours she wore. She liked his eyes.
There were the usual post-workshop drinks, at the Carleton Tavern. (It was an essential part of the workshop.) She dutifully attended and most nights the group eventually whittled down to two.
There were post-tavern nights of Chinatown pho on Somerset West. Nights that leaned to daybreak where the staff eventually shooed them out the morning doors. There were pub nights that had nothing to do with workshops. There were road trips to Eden Mills Literary festival and to her mother’s cottage in Ste. Adèle. A Thanksgiving visit to his family’s farm.
They bonded over music, over writing, over coincidences. They bonded over other personal connections that they were unable to shake. One could say neither was quite ready for the other.
After a couple of months many things began to happen. Their attentions shifted. Scattered. There was little to no communication. They worked their own paths.
They reconnected at the Ottawa International Writers Festival in October 2010. Their earlier elsewhere connections had broken apart. His mother had died in the interim. Christine was older and less quiet. rob was older and more hesitant. Things were different, now. They spent the first few nights on one side of the Writer’s Festival hospitality suite catching up. Running through.
They adapted. By New Year’s Eve, she’d worked through the numbers and realized they’d only been apart two nights of the previous three weeks. It startled them both. He recommended she stop doing the math.
A housesit in January 2011 for Stephen Brockwell was shared and then repeated. Other housesits appeared throughout that spring for her friend Natasha in Old Ottawa East. They drove up to her mother’s cottage in Ste Adèle. They shared houses more than once. It is a different thing to exist on neutral territory.
Everything was tentative. The housesits moved their level of comfort at a higher rate of speed but they worked for slowness, caution, ease. By the end of March, he cut several inches from his shoulder-length hair and shaved clean seven months of his beard. Like the shedding of a cocoon. There were elements of the past that could be left behind. They were both free to actually love one another.
They didn’t announce their relationship on Facebook until a few days later, April 1st. Both as announcement and potential source of amusement. Christine rolled her eyes and responded, "Really? Today?"
By Labour Day weekend, they moved into a two-bedroom apartment on McLeod Street in Ottawa’s former Stewarton neighbourhood. The apartment had been vacated by her brother who had relocated to Toronto. After all the housesits and six months sharing her small apartment in Old Ottawa East they realized that continuing to pay two rents made less and less sense.
During the last days of November, he offered her his late maternal grandmother’s engagement ring. She accepted.
Now he reminds her to breathe and she reminds him to work differently and less often, refocusing his gaze, as they both create the space and focus for the other to write.