The Real Deal

With another Nantucket summer looming, I can’t help but marvel at the heartbroken heap of misery I was just two short years ago. I had broken up with my girlfriend, moved into a miserable basement apartment and, like any suffering romantic, staunchly believed that I’d never find true love again. A true sadist, I’d sift through old photos and listen to our favorite songs, wielding the past like a nostalgic weapon in which to torture myself. And, sadly enough, if I happened to stumble across the film Love Actually while channel surfing, I’d force myself to watch it to completion, cynically eyeing each tale of budding romance from a wallow of self-pity.

I found one of the film’s characters, a writer named Jamie, particularly tormenting. After being betrayed by his lover, he flees to a secluded lakeside villa to finish his novel. One day, a freak gust of wind scatters the only copy of his manuscript across the lake and his housekeeper, a Portuguese beauty named Aurelia, dives in to save it. Jamie gapes at this exotic woman who, through the magic of editing, sensually flows in a slow motion dance as her walnut-brown skin basks in the heavenly aura of cinematic sunlight. Yes, he suddenly realizes, this is the girl for me. I’d watch them sloshing through the water from my subterranean couch, scraping ice cream directly from the carton and thinking, God, if only that would happen to me.

But here, in the real world, my moment of clarity didn’t unravel at an impossibly graceful film speed or come embellished with Oscar-worthy lighting, it arrived in the simple form of a phone call. “Okay, babe,” my girlfriend Alison began gingerly, “I’m going to ask you something I’ve never asked you before…”

I met Alison on my birthday, which (sorry, baby) sounds infinitely more romantic than it was. At the time, I was still a wounded man, a year removed from my stormy breakup but still living beneath its’ dark cloud. Much like Jamie, I’d fled the scene of my heartbreak, Nantucket, and struck off for some solitary soul-searching, first backpacking through Africa and then moving into a secluded cabin in the Maine wilderness. This lifestyle, as one might imagine, wasn’t exactly conducive to meeting new women and, on the eve of my twenty-fifth birthday, I suddenly recalled a comment my old buddy Steve Eddy had made upon my return from Africa.

“So Nantucket, then Africa, and now the sticks of Maine?” he summarized to set up his cruel punch line. “You must be beating the women off with a stick!” I realized that spending my birthday alone in the woods would, at best, accentuate my loneliness and at worst, plunge me into despair. So the next day I drove six hours south to Boston, crashed someone else’s birthday party, drank myself into a celebratory stupor, and yes, fell in love with beautiful Alison. I’ll admit, it wasn’t a romance worthy of the silver screen, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

And then, nine months later, I received the infamous phone call. “Yes, babe?” I asked, feigning serenity while my brain frantically rifled through the bad deeds I hadn’t yet confided to her. “Do you need any new underwear? Because I’m at the Gap and they’re having a really good sale.”

In those nine months we’d met each other’s families, discussed living together in the coming year and, as worthy couples eventually do, had even broken the I love you barrier, but for some reason, this inquiry into the state of my underpants seemed to cement our love as the real deal. Yes, I thought, elated, this is the girl for me.

I recently watched Love Actually with Alison’s family and, when viewed from the cozy perch of nascent love, it is a much different film. I was above ground, snuggled beside my girlfriend and spooning mint chocolate chip from a bowl like a civilized member of society. And most notably, this time around, I didn’t see a broken and defeated man in Jamie, but a bona fide writer practicing his craft. I saw a man so successful that he could afford to rent a magnificent villa in the south of France, hire someone to clean up after him, and spend entire days writing beside an idyllic lake. I squeezed Alison’s hand and thought, God, if only that would happen to me.


~ by Bryan Bourgault on June 8, 2009.

One Response to “The Real Deal”

  1. That Alison is a lucky girl.

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