I met Mr Half Soled Boots when I was 22 and he was 23, and we had both just been hired to a research project at the university.
We spent a lot of time that summer hanging out with people from the project - just as a group, nothing more than friends. I was seeing somebody else at that time, so wasn't on the lookout for a new person. As the months went on and my engagement was moved from serious condition to critical, showing signs of coming apart at the seams, I started to notice how much I liked this blond guy at work. He was funny.....really funny. Side-splitting. It was the kind of humor that a lot of people don't get - he's a laconic dude, from that day to this, and you have to be pretty quick to catch the remarks.
One night he had a friend visiting from out of town, and a group of us went out. We ended up back at his place and after an hour or two there were only three of us left: me, Mr HSBoots, and his best friend. We were all sitting around smoking (well, they were smoking...I was mostly trying not to cough too much) and listening to Pink Floyd. It was well into the night and getting on to the time when, if there had been a fire, we would have been staring into it. As it was, we just sat in the dark and listened, while the PULSE album, discarded on the floor, flashed its quiet heartbeat.
Where were you when I was burned and broken
When the days slipped by from my window watching
The weeks went by and my personal life went from bad to worse. It didn't matter, though - there was no way I was giving up on this relationship I had invested almost six years in. In retrospect I can see what I couldn't at the time: that he really didn't want to marry me. That the proposal and the ring and the engagement were a stalling tactic. And that in my heart I did not believe I could ever do better - find anyone else.
And where were you when I was hurt and I was helpless
Cause the things you say and the things you do surround me
On August 12 the project group went out again - this time to a beach about a half hour from the city, away from the lights, to see the Perseids. I had arranged with my roommate to borrow her vehicle and was going to drive everyone - all these carless UVic graduates - but by the time we got off work at 11.00 PM, three of the group had decided they wouldn't go after all.
Only two of us were left.
We were lying on blankets on the beach, heads on driftwood, surrounded by a crowd of recumbent strangers all chatting and gazing skyward, when Mr HalfSoledBoots took a deep breath and said he had something to tell me. He said he knew I was engaged, but he had a feeling I wasn't happy...and that he loved me. He wanted a chance to change that - to make me happy like he thought I deserved to be.
While you were hanging yourself on someone else's words
Dying to believe in what you heard
I was staring straight
into the shining sun
And three weeks after that, it was all done. The phone calls had been made, along with a few four-hour drives to and from the town my fiance was living in. The ring was returned, all three hearts were to various degrees broken.
On August 12, a year later, we were married. He moved in, carting boxes of CDs and headphones, speakers and amps. We sat on the floor listening to David Gilmour and Roger Waters and going through the CDs, tossing all the doubles onto a pile. Ten Summoner's Tales. The Wall: Live in Berlin. Cuts Like a Knife. The Tragically Hip. Jagged Little Pill. I laughed as I made room on the shelves for the his music - Grateful Dead, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Carmina Burana - while he earnestly explained how I was supposed to pronounce Knebworth.
Eleven years later, I still haven't listened to it.
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since we got married. There have been lots of victories, and more defeats than I like to admit. We've had the health, and we've had the sickness...we've had the richer and the poorer. We don't really listen to music anymore - it's hard with all the interruptions of a family. When I get into the car after Mr HSB has been driving, I just punch the power button to turn the stereo off, out of habit, before it even has a chance to get fully wound up - with the kids strapped into the back seat and talking a mile a minute, music is a bit overstimulating. If I let it play, though, I know what will fill the car - he takes all six CD slots and fills them up with concert bootlegs, Jimi Hendrix, U2, Robert Plant, Jerry Garcia.
Yesterday I sat in the corner of the couch, knitting. The kids were playing in the sprinkler outside, shrieking and laughing. And Mr Half Soled Boots was on the other end of the couch, laptop balanced on the arm, listening to David Gilmour on iTunes. He's not a singer-along, generally speaking, but ever since I met him there's one refrain he doesn't even try to resist. Usually I join in, compelled, as he is, by the song. As it approached I waited for it, smiling and trying not to smile, glad he was looking in the other direction and didn't know I was paying attention. The low-voiced verse ended, the music changed from minor to major, reaching resolution in a moment of pure beauty.
There is no pain - you are receding
A distant ship smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move, but I can't hear what you're saying...
I have become
It's the most he ever sings - ten or so lines of a surreal rock opera. Listening to him, the way he pauses - has always paused - along with David Gilmour in between "smoke" and "on the horizon", he became to me the same 23-year-old who had made me laugh all that long summer. He was the same funny, taciturn boy who played albums for me at night, turning up the guitar solos. I had been pushed back in time, just for a minute, to that night in 1996 when I sat in a smoky bachelor pad and heard the ringing of the Division Bell. Before my life was changed.
I took a heavenly ride through our silence
I knew the moment had arrived
For killing the past and coming back to life
Thanks, Ian. Thanks for loving me for eleven years, and for making good on your promise to make me happy. Thanks for saying what's important, even though, as a rule, you don't say much.
Thank you for my daughters.
I love you.
High Hopes, from Division Bell 1994, by D.Gilmour, P.Samson
Coming Back to Life, from Division Bell, 1994, by D.Gilmour
Comfortably Numb, from The Wall, 1979, by D.Gilmour, R.Waters