It Didn’t Work
“Do you want some tea?” “Coffee. Always coffee. You know I don’t drink tea.”“Just for a change? I have these teacups I love.” Olivia took two out of the cupboard. Whimsical white cups shaped like lilies with handles shaped like fairy wings.It was Wednesday, Olivia’s night to relax.
“I know they’re girly. I saw a set like this at a Vancouver gift shop 18 years ago. They were sooo expensive.”Ray raised a tightened fist while scrunching his face. “Ha ha,“ she replied. “I was in school and living on my own. I had zero money. When you’re broke it’s not called cheapness.” Olivia didn’t mind him teasing her about being cheap. She considered it being extremely practical and it was her superpower.
“Anyway, I didn’t buy them, but I remembered.” Olivia filled a pot with water and turned it on. “I’ve never gone back to Vancouver, but I thought other gift shops would have them. But no. musta been a local artist or something? And then five years ago I saw them at a thrift store! It’s the one whimsical thing I have. I love them.”“Ok, we can drink coffee out of them.” “Oh no! Then I won’t be able to use the teapot!” she said taking out a vividly coloured teapot. “Mark found this at some fair. It‘s not exactly the same but goes so well.” Her eyes sparkled with the story. Not the memory of her ex husband, but the coincidence of finding a good match out there. “It’s like my cups and the teapot are soul mates,” she said in mock seriousness. “Here’s my tea selection: earl grey, chai, orange pekoe.” Olivia offered Ray the tea box. He didn’t reach for it. “You choose.”“All right. Try earl grey”. She opened the canister, put her face to it and inhaled. This was one of the very few ways she stopped to smell the roses. She put two bags in the teapot and poured water in.They watched Netflix. At the end Olivia sighed at how fast the week was passing. How fast the evening went by. They had a long hug goodbye. She liked being in the doorway and having someone to kiss goodbye in there. She knew the neighbours might catch a glimpse, and she didn’t mind. They weren’t exactly close friends with the neighbours, but they must have realized that Mark hadn’t lived there in three years. And there was a sweetness to that goodbye feeling, to those 10 minutes after the door closed. The feeling of missing him so much. Teenage books call it being in love. She waved her hand to herself to disperse the feeling and her internal dialogue about it. “What is love?” she thought. It’s not just what those afraid of commitment would say. She was genuinely concerned. “After a marriage of 19 years, I don’t know. I know I love my children. Other than that, it’s a complex feeling. Comfort, obligation…” Stupid internal dialogue wouldn’t stop. “Anyway, I like the comfort and the companionship,” she thought. But she didn’t wish he could have stayed. They already spent too many nights together. Almost all the nights when she didn’t have her kids. And she needed some time to herself. Ray wanted so much of her. She put on her worn out Metallica shirt to go to bed. In her favorite flannel sheets that she bought 10 years ago, on her 12 year old mattress. She only recently started sleeping in the middle, and loved stretching out, taking the whole bed.
Next week Wednesday it was Olivia's turn to visit. Not visit, he didn’t like that. To stay. He lived in a one bedroom condo. Everything there was new. He split up from his wife 10 years ago, got rid of all his stuff and bought everything new to take into the condo. Then he dated a girl for a couple of years and when she was gone, so were all the furniture, bed sheets, cushions.
On the little breakfast table was a medium sized box. White, a little fancy. “Where does this go?” she asked, wanting to put it away.“It’s for you,” Ray replied. She opened it. It was a teapot. Hmm.“I already have a teapot,” she blurted out before she could stop herself. Quickly realizing that she was doing that thing from the book about not accepting gestures of love, she pivoted, “Oh, I can keep it here and we can have tea together on the balcony.”“No, it’s for you. For your place. To replace your old one.”“Mine still works, I don’t need a new one,” this was a conversation they’d had many times. Ray liked to buy whatever stroked his fancy. Olivia didn’t. She liked to use things up. One wasn’t better than the other (let’s pretend that’s true), they were just different approaches.“It looks so sad,” he said referring to her teapot.Olivia sensed that they were entering a sensitive area. She just smiled, “But it works.”Ray wasn’t giving up. “I see it made you sad to use it. It has sad memories. Why do you want to be reminded of that?”“No, it doesn’t have sad memories. They’re good memories. I was so happy to find a match for my cups. And I've had tea from it with lots of friends.”“I don't have anything from the time I was married.”
“That’s you. Even the fact that Mark bought it… that doesn’t bother me. I don’t have bad feelings towards him. He was a part of my life. I accept that.”“I don't have bad feelings towards my wife. But she is gone and so is all her crap”.“That’s fine for you. But I don’t need that. It honestly doesn't make me sad. I rarely remember that it was from him. It feels mine now,”“We are together now. I hope that we can create our own life. Brand new,” he said coming over and embracing her.
And what could she say to that? This was an offer of love. After her marriage ended (and after some time to reflect and heal), she had gone through a period of dating. Olivia had no idea what to expect. When you’re in your 20s and dating, even if you’re not in a rush, you know that eventually your goal is to find someone, make a home, and usually have kids.
“What are you looking for in the second stage?” she thought. Really, comments welcome. People who are dating and have kids have complex schedules and that alone is a deal breaker a lot of the time. And by this age, people have baggage. Have scars or haven’t even processed what happened to them before. “Love isn’t easily given in this second stage,” she concluded. That’s why Ray, with all his love, presents, attention, intensity and yes, control, was not a bad option. A good man, willing to give his love, one who is into her, has his life figured out, no crazy people in his life. “Shut up and take it, girl!” her practical alter ego shouted inside.
Olivia spent the next two days working from her laptop at Ray’s breakfast table. She made her breakfast shake in the blender in between his meetings. He talked on the phone a lot - intense conversations. She would take any phone meetings she had in the dark bedroom. She forgot to bring her good night cream again. She was in the weird stage of life and dating where they were comfortable enough to sleep over but she was not comfortable to put on a face mask or wear her foot correctors at night. Small sacrifices.On Friday the kids were coming back and she left Ray’s. As she packed up, she reluctantly looked at the teapot box. She had to take it.“I had a nice time,” she said as they hugged goodbye. He held her tight and long. “Ya, i’ll miss him too” she thought.The weekend was…. A usual mom weekend. Cleaning the house, yard work, groceries and trying to find little ways to connect with the kids, let them have fun.
On Sunday, Olivia strategized how to get herself an hour of alone time at night. Just to feel like an adult and enjoy her living room. She’d make some tea and sit on the sofa that she almost never had time to sit on. She had some of her favourite red rooibos tea left. She opened the can and inhaled the aroma. It was only for one person, but she steeped the tea in her fairy teapot anyway.
She sat on the sofa, with the lights dim.“I like it. It’s mine. It’s me,” she thought. Even though she was talking to herself and not arguing, her tone had that stubborn, foot stomping quality.
Other people had baggage and she did too. “I like using my things. I like using them up. I don't need new things. Why do I have to give up my things?” “My, my” echoed in her mind. “I want to have my own time,” came a seemingly unrelated thought. She did go through a period of having lots of her own time and she was ready to have someone in the background not to feel lonely with. “Eeew, is that how I describe it? Someone in the background?” she made a face at herself. The other self she was talking to. “Maybe he’s right that I'm pushing him away”. “But he pulls me so tight” the other self countered right away.
She tried to stop the argument in her head. But thoughts kept coming. Memories. When she thought of her ex-husband she focused on the good parts. “He is a good dad. Great dad. He wasn’t… I mean he tried… he loved me. We had a good life together. We went through so much growing up together.” Nothing bad happened in their marriage. It had just run its course. Tears welled in her eyes for a second and overflowed right away. Good memories. It was a huge chunk of her life. And with the kids, the best of her life. To be cherished. Not to be forgotten.She got up to make more tea and sat on the sofa with her cup and teapot until the noise from kids upstairs stopped.Eventually she got up. She emptied the teapot, rinsed it. She went to the yard to put it in her bin for the Salvation Army. There was an old baseball bat in there. She covered the teapot with a rug from the bin. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. She smashed the teapot with the bat. She threw the remains in the garbage bin.On monday morning her daughter was making her breakfast in the kitchen and saw the new teapot on the counter.
“Where is the fairy teapot?” she asked? 11 year olds are very observant about mundane things.“I had to throw it out. It didn’t work,” Olivia replied.