I broke up with Richard.
It was a hot summer, we were just getting to know each other, and I had doubts. He was kind. He was sincere. He was great with kids. He was fun. Maybe a bit too kind and sincere. Maybe a bit too good with kids and a bit too sincere. No one is that perfect (of course, this was before The Apple...another time). There was a catch, and I wasn't going to get caught.
I'd been there before, and I knew better. I was nobody's fool, and I wasn't about to wait around to be broken up with. So I beat him to it - I broke up with him before he could break up with me. Ha. I won.
That summer day in 2001, the week after we jumped from a plane (it was held together with duct tape, literally, so you can take that into account), I drove over with my mind made up and my heart in my throat. It was the right thing to do. He knew right away that something was up. The quick side hug, the stiff sitting on the couch, the, "So, um. I wanted to tell you something." And it was done. Free.
He didn't say much. He asked why, and I honestly wasn't sure but I made up some fool excuse. He accepted, and then he got up.
He walked me to my car! The man, who'd just had his heart trampled, walked me through the front door, off the deck, and to my car.
And stepped in dog poop. For real. The man, who'd just had his heart trampled, walked me to my car and stepped in dog crap. *This is always where Richard stops me in my story with, "That was the worst day of my life. Those were my favourite shoes."* He groaned, disgusted, "Careful not to step in the dog poop."
The man, who'd just had his heart trampled, walked me to my car, stepped in dog crap, and warned me about it. Most men would have pushed me into it. He cared for me and my shoes.
He opened my car door, closed it gently behind me and leaned into the window. He wished me a safe drive home. I stared at him, stunned at this man who walks me, warns me, and wishes me well when he's been trampled and shat upon.
At home my mother confirmed my fears. Fool. Absolute fool. "They're not all going to break your heart, Emilie." I had done that enough for myself.
Months or years later I asked him about that night. He'd gone to his best friend's, who'd greeted the news with, "Aw, that sucks man." They'd driven around for hours, and the next summer that friend stood up with us at our wedding.
All these years later I think of the times that man has walked. Not only on the night he stepped in dog poop, but all the others. The time he walked me out of the church, dressed in white. The time he walked me across the parking lot, suitcase in hand, pausing for contractions that brought our daughter to us. The times he walked to me with an apology, and the times he rocked me with forgiveness. The times he walked the bedroom floors with our infants and allowed me to sleep a little while longer. The time we strolled my favourite trail, the pain almost intolerable, because he knew it meant so much to me. The time he took one step, scars raw from surgery, me unsure next to his walker, the pain fresh but the hope burning. Every walk from the house every morning of the week to feed his family, and every walk back to the kitchen to have lunch with a flustered wife and four kids, because it matters. Every walk to the kitchen sink, arms wrapped around me, "C'mere".
It was the worst day, but it was followed by so many good walks.