Artwork by Maggie Rapt
“How tall are you? 6’1”? 6’2”? Same height as me, right?”
Neither of us knew it, but that incredibly false assumption would be the catalyst for a million and one events that would change us both.
I couldn’t tell if he was joking or just alarmingly unaware of his surroundings and size. I didn’t care though, I was so relieved we were finally talking. We had been working side by side at Starbucks for a couple of months but we were never able to strike up much of a conversation.
“Are you serious? We’re not the same height, at all!”
I would find myself looking at the schedule silently hoping we would be working at the same time.
“Oh, so you’re taller than me?!”
“Jesus Christ. You’re a simple man, aren’t you?”
His deep laughter boomed through the quiet atrium of the hospital where our Starbucks was located.
“I didn’t know you were funny!”
Did you feel that?
I hadn’t made any friends since moving to Toronto two months earlier. I had left Halifax desperate for a new life but everything had stayed exactly the same, just with more traffic and a Whole Foods nearby. I was still working an unstimulating job, and then going home to watch tv and drink wine with Him at the end of the day, rinse and repeat.
A nice life.
Then came G.
Our first hang out consisted of us getting too drunk on a park bench in the village. We drank cheap whiskey out of Starbucks cups on a warm Friday night. He unapologetically asked me the kind of personal questions we are always told you shouldn’t ask.
“How much is your rent?”
“You did a one-woman show about Emily Dickinson? That sounds so boring, did anybody care?”
I lied to him at first about having a boyfriend, but not for the reasons you’re thinking.
I found myself really not wanting to talk about my life. I felt bile rise in my throat when I told him I was an actor. That was new.
He blindsided me.
“How many people have you slept with?”
“Can I go up to your apartment to pee?”
I wouldn’t let him up to the 28th floor. I told him it was because my apartment was so messy, but really it was because He was up there. It was the last night He was in town before He went away for eight weeks and I was down on the ground with G.
I made him use the washroom at the Loblaws.
I felt uneasy but I could tell I was safe. He’s young and naive and the best thing about him is that he always assumes that people are inherently good, I guess because he himself is. I was no exception to this. I sensed his admiration and affection for me early on, and I admit I took advantage of that.
I had suddenly been forced to accept that I wanted to get rid of everything I ever knew.
I didn’t want to be an actor.
I didn’t want to be someone’s girlfriend.
G made me realize I had been mistaking what I want with what I know, through his carefree curiosity and often crude questioning.
The day after our drunken night in the park he texted me a picture of an Emily Dickinson audiobook on vinyl he had found in a record shop. It was at least 40 years old and the image on the cover was of an insane-looking woman dressed up like the poet.
He captioned it:
“Didn’t realize you were such a big deal! What did you get up to today!?”
Instead of laughing, my heart sank. I had started this friendship by lying to him. I knew that G had the potential to be a great friend. Why was I struggling to tell him about this part of me?
“Haha, very funny. I went to brunch with my BF before he leaves town for a while… what did you do?”
I must have spent fifteen minutes crafting that message.
I waited in anticipation for his reply. It was weird I didn’t tell him. We had talked about a lot of things the night before, he was bound to find this strange.
“Nice! What did you and the boy get up to?”
Instant relief. He probably did find it weird I left that out, but he never said anything about it.
After “the boy” left for his work contract G and I spent most evenings together posted up on the 28th floor discussing comedy and swapping funny stories about our other friends and watching dumb videos on the internet. We had quickly created a bubble for ourselves, and the only other person allowed in our bubble was the uber eats delivery guy.
And then the bubble popped.
In early June things with my relationship had completely deteriorated and I was in a full-blown crisis. G was there for me every day and had become my on-call shoulder to cry on. He would sit next to me and let me vent, yell, be angry and work out my feelings without judgment.
There was a grey area when things with my relationship were over, but not quite. I felt stuck in a tortured limbo of loose ends and raw emotion and one of my biggest regrets of that whole time was that I forced G to unknowingly get caught up in the web of that.
Things were so confusing and my mind was tired and foggy. I wasn’t thinking clearly at all. Things got weird between G and me once. Well twice. Okay, I guess it was three times, but I promise that was it. What do you expect when two people connect so strongly and one of them is the most emotionally vulnerable they’ve ever been and the other one is a 22-year-old dude? Of course shit got weird, but it was merely a blip in the long history we’ve created for ourselves in a year.
I was certain I had completely ruined everything with G with my reckless selfishness.
We spent a few days apart in June while I tied up the loose ends left over from my dead relationship.
I texted G.
“Hey, Goobs. After work come over and hang out- bring booze.”
He pretended to be inconvenienced by this request but we both knew he was always going to come over and bring a bottle of Canadian Club.
When he arrived I was on the balcony. He was too afraid of heights to come out so he stayed inside and rolled a joint. I had been crying and was too afraid to come in.
When I didn’t immediately come inside to greet him with an insult he noticed. He was more aware of his surroundings then I gave him credit for.
“What’s up?” he said from deep inside the apartment. I could see him furrow his dark brow from outside. His tone was different than usual. Concerned.
“I, uh...have to move out.” I looked up to the sky desperate to not cry in front of my new friend. I had told him a lot of things, but I hadn't ever cried.
There was a brief silence. He crossed over the threshold even though he hated it.
“You can cry... if you want... I promise not get to weird about it.”
“Good, because I’m definitely going to cry… and be weird about it”
He came close and bear hugged me just a little too tightly for it to be comfortable. It lasted a long time. I unsuccessfully tried not to cry.
I felt so much guilt for dragging him through this with me. I had only known him for just over a month. I was embarrassed that this was the only version of me he knew and I prayed I would get my act together quickly so I’d be able to show him how chilled out and relaxed I actually was. Until then, I just hoped he would continue to be here.
“I’m sorry,” I said “This is so much more than you signed on for. I’m so needy!”
“Don’t apologize” he said “My friends are my family. I’ll do anything for you. And I’ll always help you move”
The hug continued a few beats longer. After a few moments, he broke the embrace.
“God, you’re such a fucking baby...can we please go inside now, I can’t feel my legs.”
“I’m the fucking baby?” I said laughing as I wiped my eyes.
I knew then that he would be here for life.
That whole summer when I was at my most sad he would call me up daily to check in and I would say, “I’m fine!” (I wasn’t fine) “What’s up with you?”
He’d ask if I wanted to get some food and do a crossword so we’d meet on a park bench and sit arm in arm like an elderly couple and do the daily Metro crossword in silence for hours at a time and then go get sandwiches.
The best was when we would be stoned in the middle of a hot afternoon, laughing until we couldn’t breathe at found footage from the 80’s. The worst was when he would go away for weeks at a time for work, forcing me to do nothing except trudge through my emotional baggage alone with zero distraction.
He allowed me to be a needy friend and I’ve made extensive notes of every favour he’s ever done for me so I can hopefully one day return it.
I think I could write an entire book just about G.
My female friends ask me all the time “What’s the deal with you and G?” in that particularly loaded tone women speak in. You know the tone.
I tend to roll my eyes and brush their comments off. “Ew, stop. Nothing. Don’t be weird.”
But if I were to indulge their inquiries I would say this:
G saved me from myself by simply being genuinely curious about who I am.
He never lets me off the hook when I don’t have a good answer for him, and he never hesitates to tell me when my work could be better. He’s my toughest critic and my strongest ally.
He knows when to pry me for information and he knows when to back off and just let me watch the dumb tv show in comfortable silence. He doesn’t let a single day go by without checking in to see what I’m up to, and he usually tells me to “Have a good night! Sleep well” at the end of every day. And he really does always help me move.
He’s more than my friend, but it’s not what you think. It’s a discredit to our friendship to dumb it down to something so simple. It’s complex, but he probably doesn’t see it that way. He likes to brush things off like they’re nothing, but the truth is that he’s a complicated, whip smart, obnoxious/ sweet, creative soul.
He’s my family and he’s transformed Toronto from just being the city I live in to my home.
He’s my goddamn white knight in tube socks and a snapback.