This summer I received wild flowers in a tin spaghetti can. The flowers arrived with a package of butcher’s bacon. Yes, that’s right, I received flowers and bacon together.
At my B & B in small-town Quebec there was a knock on my door. I checked that I was presentable, threw on my Covid mask and opened it.
A thin, sun-hardened arm reached out and passed me the flowers. They were lovely and had clearly been arranged with care, not simply tossed in the can.
“These are beautiful, what a sweet gesture, thank you so much, I…”
The same thin, sun-hardened arm reached out again and passed me a package wrapped in brown paper.
“It’s for your breakfast with your friend. You’re going to visit her today, right? It’s bacon.”
Wearing a black goth-y mumu, hair in a giant bun, floral mask on, I stood holding the flowers and bacon. I felt like an actress in a scene from a quirky indie film. The gift-giver was my ex-boyfriend from 30 years ago, we had dated briefly when we were just twenty years old.
I had come to Quebec specifically for a late summer, covid-safe outdoor visit with one of my oldest & most beautifully eccentric girlfriends. When I realized my old-boyfriend lived nearby I thought it would be fun to have a coffee or a glass of wine with him and catch up. I was not prepared for flowers and bacon, nor for what I had experienced the night before.
The previous evening I had spent sitting in a field with my ex and two other men, one a close family friend of his and one a straw hat-wearing man whom he appeared to loathe. A somewhat alarming-looking fire roared nearby in a metal barrel and a giant pirate’s flag decorated the outdoor workspace behind us. Music blasted from somewhere as we drank wine from jam jars that had seen better days. At various points in the evening the guys took turns peeing outside.
“If u need to go pee, you can just do it out here, don’t worry, we won’t look and you’ll be safe. I’ll protect you,” said my ex.
On the walk over to his artist-meets Hells’ Angels living quarters, I discovered that the man I once knew was buried under layers of pain. He had a hard time making eye contact, he fidgeted and he was drunk. Though he smelled like beer, he smelled more like suffering; layers of suffering. Like a trauma layer cake with his old self as the bottom layer. Followed by a layer of deep grief and loss, then a layer of un-treated depression and self-destructive behaviour, iced with a thick layer of sadness. I knew he had been in the Service, so added to the layers were sprinkles of PTSD.
I felt his spirit had been so badly broken, that he had given up and now resided at the bottom of the trauma cake, unable to cast off the layers.
Later that night, alone at my B & B, I was overcome with sorrow. Deep sorrow, sorrow so intense that it alarmed me. I wanted to help him. I wanted to witness him with his spirit intact again. I wanted to smash that trauma cake.
So no, I was not prepared to receive flowers and bacon the next morning. But I will never forget them. The moment was tender and real and awkward and despite the sadness I had felt the night before and still felt, it was also beautiful.