This is a personal project of mine, one that will likely stretch for the next year. I want to write our love story, in detail, so many years from now I can remember what drew us to one another. The introduction of Forge can be found here and Part One can be found here. This is Part Two.
Only a couple of weeks after my weekend in Courtenay, I was packing my bags for Montreal, Quebec. I was going for three weeks, splitting my time evenly between Montreal and Quebec City. I was following a dream I’ve had had since our first family vacation to Montreal when I was sixteen years old. I wanted to experience Quebec. Unplanned, unscheduled and alone. I was nervous but ready… I needed the space to think, the hours to walk, the mornings and evenings to write. I was craving dark chocolate and espresso and corner cafes and I longed to be surrounded by a language I couldn’t understand.
I was twenty one years old.
When my AirCanada flight descended into Montreal on the first of November, the colours of autumn had come to life as far as the eye could see. I smiled, turning towards the window to hide it, surprising myself at the outward display of emotion. You’re alone, remember? Don’t be the weird girl smiling alone. I could feel it in my bones. I was standing on the edge of something new. I didn’t know what my “new” would be but I was ready for it. I was twenty-one, single and ready to take over the world. Besides, I was tired of the same old routine at home… and very tired of being enamoured with a boy who didn’t care. This was my month.
At baggage claim, I strained my ear to listen for French words I could understand amidst the conversations surrounding me. Everybody talks at the speed of light. This is ridiculous. I turned on my phone and two text messages appeared. One from my mom and one from Cameron. “Saw this today, thinking of you,” he said, with a photo of my initials J.D.P. on the side of a semi-truck.
Cameron and I had graduated in the same high school class. Following graduation, we attended the same church and through a similar friend group, began to become quite close. We had a comfortable friendship – one without a hint of romance. I was clearly and openly stuck on a boy and Cameron even dated someone for quite a few months. Following his breakup and my growing frustration with my current boy situation, the frequency of our conversations increased. He was one of my best friends.
But the week before Quebec, something started to change. Instead of seeing each other occasionally, he asked what my plans were almost every day. We started to text regularly and our casual Starbucks in the afternoon, turned into a couple of long drives at night. Although Cameron was a good looking guy, I had never been attracted to him, it wasn’t like that between us… the thought never crossed my mind. But now, standing in an international airport, looking down at my iPhone, I wondered why he was the first person to text. “Thinking of you,” no less. Could I like Cameron? I shrugged off the thought, quickly and speed walked with purpose towards the rotating baggage claim, my overweight suitcase in sight.
The next twenty days were filled with everything I had imagined. In Montreal, I stayed with a fellow photographer and friend of mine for a few days. Her walk-up townhouse was a five minute walk from the Metro and a short ride to central downtown. I bought a transit card on my first morning in Montreal and within a few days, I felt like a local. I was Metro-ing and bus-ing with the best of them all the while doing my best to not think about home or Cameron or guys, in general. I was in a regular routine. Wake up, shower, eat breakfast, pack my backpack–camera, notebook, laptop, bible, wallet, iPhone, headphones–and walk to the Metro. Every day, I’d pick a different destination, hovering my finger over the expansive underground map, admiring the coloured lines going every which way. Mmmm, this stop looks good.
I savoured the time without anywhere to be, reading my Bible for hours at a time, wandering through streets with my camera and writing whatever words came to my heart. I loved that city.
Could I like Cameron? The question echoed daily through my brain, each word matching the pace of my riding boots as they hit the cobbled streets. I had heard the story so many times before, it’s so obvious, so classic in it’s appeal. Boy and girl are best friends. Boy and girl date other people. Boy and girl realized after a few years, it’s the other person they’ve been looking for all along. How did I not see this coming? … is this even coming?
My Quebec plan was to “get away from it all” but there we were, texting most days, even talking on the phone a couple of times. His request. My brain was going crazy and I was frustrated at whatever game we were playing. You are over here. In my friend zone. Please announce if you’d like to remove yourself, I thought.
I was writing in Starbucks one afternoon, when he called. I couldn’t take it anymore. I started, hesitating, “The other night… when we were driving, what was going through your head?” I was met with silence on the other end of the line. I wanted to take my words back. I was in awkward, unfamiliar territory. Taking a deep breathe I continued, “You’ve been different lately. Do… you… I don’t know… like me? Because I need to know.”
What came next was convoluted, “Yes… I think we both are starting to feel a certain way, would you agree?” I fiddled with the teabag string on my Starbucks cup. “Sure.” “And I think we could both agree… this is bad timing… I’m healing from my relationship… you’re getting out of your own thing…” he continued. “Sure.” “Maybe we need some space to think. Maybe we shouldn’t talk. Let’s take a break from us.” Didn’t see that coming, I thought. But instead I replied, “Um. Okay. Got it.” I heard him exhale, “Bye.” “Bye.” I hung up.
A few days later, I said goodbye to Montreal and caught a ride to the airport for a rental car. My suitcase and backpack were thrown in the back seat and the ignition started up. After ten days of walking and public transit, being in a vehicle felt safe. It was my own little cocoon. With a radio. A cocoon with a radio and heated seats and a handy holder for my green tea. I waved goodbye to my friend and headed North on the highway, next and final trip destination: Quebec City.
My days in Quebec City passed with a slower pace than Montreal. Not only is Quebec City smaller than Montreal but I was also staying in the suburbs, in a family friends’ spare bedroom. I drove into the city everyday, walking only for pleasure, no longer out of necessity. The November days were short, the evenings long. I photographed the cobbled stone streets of the Old City in the daytime and in the evenings, I prayed and wrote and read for hours. It surprised me how quickly time passed. Boredom never found me. My brain felt full – full of questions about my future, dreams for my writing, goals for my career and of course, Cameron. And whatever the conversation we had two weeks ago meant. We liked each other. I liked him. We had hours and hours of conversation behind us already. We were solid friends. We knew each other families. This could, this would be amazing. We could work, and the more I thought about, the more I thought we would really, really work. In a while. Not right now. Because he was right, it was probably bad timing.
In one short month, he was out of my friend zone and careening towards my heart.
If I had sat down and wrote out a plan for my winter, it would have been the opposite of my reality. After three weeks apart, one awkward “I could like you” conversation and multiple text messages, Cameron and I’s friendship had changed. It would never be the same. A messy confrontation shortly after my trip left us hurt and mad. A relationship was not happening but neither was our friendship. December was difficult. My heart felt like it was torn open. For weeks, I had been wrapping my head around a jump from friend to “more” with Cameron and with one conversation, the door was slammed shut in my face.
Life carried on at a hurried pace. After only two weeks at home (two weeks that were spent fully enjoying the luxury of a closet, not a suitcase, my own bathroom, warmer weather and being back home with my family) I was back on the road. My parents have a vacation home in Arizona so the three of us flew down for a couple days. From Arizona, I traveled to Nashville to visit my friend Sarah and at the tail end of my trip, Baltimore to stay with my friend Kristen.
After Christmas at home (a welcome two week travel reprieve), I was aboard a direct red eye flight from Vancouver to Sydney, Australia on New Year’s Day. Australia was full of sunshine, adventure, highways, beaches, restaurants, coffee and photographing a wedding day. Two speeding tickets proved Australia was also full of speed cameras.
Have you ever experienced something that you know is a defining life moment? An “I’ll remember this forever” feeling? The city of Sydney gifted me with two. The first was my first morning there. I had awoke earlier than normal, thanks to a healthy bout of jet lag, and walked ten minutes to a park underneath the Harbour Bridge. I settled on the grass with my Bible but before picking it up to read, I hugged my knees to my chest. Looking directly out at the harbour I breathed sharply in, I’m in Australia. Across the world. This is incredible. The second life moment was on the harbour ferry, crossing back into downtown with my friend Leanne. The sky was filled with a brilliant pink sunset, the wind off the water blowing my blonde hair across my face. I am really, really here.
Our days were fun and full of new things. I was genuinely having a wonderful time, most of the time! But in quiet moments, in moments of reflection, I could still feel the tear. I had a broken heart.
Following Australia, I had a few days at home before I flew to Salt Lake City for a design conference. When my final flight of my three months of whirlwind travel landed in Vancouver, I was content to be home. For good. Or at least a few months. No more packing and unpacking suitcases, no more Starbucks breakfasts and make-shift lunches in airports, no more running away from whatever I seemed to be running from.
A month later, Cameron texted. It was a simple question, one that would have seemed so commonplace months ago. “Could we go for coffee?” I breathed in deeply. It couldn’t hurt. “Ooookay. When?” I asked. “Three o’ clock?” “Today?” “Yeah, today.”
At three o’ clock in the afternoon, we sat face to face over green tea and an americano. I had nervous fidgeting hands and we shared hesitant eye contact. He began to talk, slowly. His slow words were strung together in run-on sentences. He couldn’t stop thinking about me. I know that feeling. He missed me. I missed him. He liked me. I liked him. Three hours later, we left the coffee shop hand in hand.
It seems silly looking back. I knew we weren’t right but I wanted it. And he wanted it. I remember praying about Cameron many times that winter, confused by feelings and conversations and the heartache. A thought came to my mind as I was praying one afternoon. He’s not for you. Excuse me, what? Surely I can’t know that. But there it was, ringing in my ears as if it had been spoken aloud. He’s not for you. I brushed it off. I’d figure this out myself, thank you very much.
Figure it out we did. Five days into our relationship, I was laying on my mom’s bedroom floor moaning, “Mom, I did it agaiiiiiiin.” I was on the brink of a panic attack, history was repeating itself in front of my eyes. When I was eighteen, I dated a boy “officially” for all of three days before breaking up with him. I didn’t shower or change out of my hoodie with the words Boston written across my chest and my yoga pants for two days. I cried more than I thought a human being could cry when I had to break his poor heart. All I wanted to eat was Chinese food, hot or cold, I’d take it either way. “Calm down, Jamie. Just give it some time,” she said.
Our relationship ended after one month. Turns out, Cameron & I were terrible together, both trying to change who we were to suit the other person. We didn’t like to spend our time the same way, we didn’t value the same things, we didn’t even enjoy hanging out that much.
When the door closed between us for the second time, the only thing I felt was relief.