My life was a dead end. I had gutted my relationship. Sucker-punched my legal career. Turned away friends and family. There I was on my hardwood floor, cuddling a space heater and praying the wafts of hot air would chase out the illness that had upended my life. Depression — that’s what the doc called it. I knew it as dead ends. Everywhere I turned, there were dead ends.
The heater gave me an idea. The problem wasn’t brain chemistry, a job I hated or an impossibly savage breakup. The problem had to be the cold. It was too damn cold in Toronto. So I booked a one-way ticket to Trinidad and Tobago — my mother’s birthplace and home to cousins, uncles, aunties and one of my best friends, Dana.
It was rainy season in Trinidad. There was no magic genie sunning on the beach. Day after day, the island’s eyes mimed mine, full and wet. Until one night, as I danced side-by-side with Dana into the early morning, the island and I began to dry up. Slowly, I started to let in the aromatics of chicken curry and to taste the tamarind and slight pepper on my 6:00 a.m. doubles. The open arms of my family closed in on me, and I felt something inside me shift… I was healing.
Months later when I left Trinidad, it was on new, sturdier legs. I stepped off the plane and into Manhattan’s belly. It was Saturday night and the city was agape with drunken tourists, annoyed locals and the chronic drone of lights. All the lights. The city’s fabric had the other-worldly texture of lost dreams and unapologetic ebullience. I found myself walking the streets of Chelsea, stopping to marvel at bookstores, winding trees and ruffled pants.
All routes felt endless.
I couldn’t have known then that I was at the beginning of a love story. He was Italian. He wore vintage sunglasses and a backward hat. On the third date, I stayed with him through the weekend. On our fourth date, I stayed a week. By the sixth, we were PB&J, cookies & cream, Jeff & Jean.
What to say about Jeff? He makes the bed every morning. He has never once put the water filter back in the fridge empty. He can balance chairs on his chin. In the dark, I told him about the heater, the shame, the suicidal thoughts, the blackened days and all the remnants of that gritty word, "depression," that still clung to my heart. And he told me that he had never loved me more.
With him by my side, I went back home to Toronto. I left law and built a new career in writing — one that thrills and moves me. Knocked on the closed doors of friends and family until they reopened to me. Winter came. And the cold didn’t faze me. I ran and slid on Toronto’s frozen streets. Summer came. Jeff was still by my side.
A week ago, in my power pants and black heels, I went to see a documentary with a group of my closest girlfriends. At the concession stand, I bought Sour Patch Kids because it was Jeff’s favorite, and of course, it had become mine too. We cozied into our seats and I chatted with my girlfriend about Chef’s Table as the trailers played.
Until a man that looked like Jeff appeared on the movie screen. He scrolled through Tinder and matched with “Jean.” Just as Jeff and I had. He FaceTimed her. Just as Jeff and I had. He met her at the Flat Iron in downtown Manhattan. She wore a pink summer dress, just like the one I wore on our first date. He thumbed his camo backpack nervously — as Jeff had.
I was watching our first date. And, as James Arthur’s voice sang, “I’m certain that I’m yours…,” I thought of all Jeff’s late nights staging and filming the scenes, just for me. I thought of that quiet night, when the word suicide knifed at the air. And he, in his usual way, mended what had come undone.
The screen said Coming Soon. He walked out in a black tailored suit. He got down on one knee.
Love. It’s an antidote — isn’t it?
I said yes so many times.
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