Just One Breath

An American girl in Scotland, figuring things out one step at a time

Fade to black


2008 started as so many years had, a Happy New Year email from Jamie. It was an extremely good start to the year for us. We were in rare form. Talking almost daily via email and making each other laugh so often that it was just like when we were kids. It felt really good to be silly and free. How we got here was through the grace of something greater than us, something that knew we were not done with each other yet.

Jamie had settled into his new job at Equator. He was making friends and generally loving the daily frustrations of fixing and building new websites. He had found his niche finally and he was thriving. I, on the other hand, was getting fatter but I had started with one of the most challenging clients I would ever have, a deaf, blind and profoundly autistic boy. I grew to love this child and his family more than I ever imagined I would. I learned so much about myself and about what I was capable of at the very same time that Jamie was expanding his own understanding of himself. We were oceans apart but going through parallel journeys that would make us into the people we are today.

Things were so good between us that we decided we would take another trip into NYC. We had a good amount of banter about the usual nonsense that two 30 something’s do and it was fun. We didn’t see any harm in teasing at this point because we believed we had moved past the being together stuff that had hurt us so many times. We loved each other more than anything and joked about being one another’s back-up if we didn’t find someone who could deal with all of our individual issues. We were on familiar ground but this time it felt safer. We had decided to not try to be together again, the risk of losing our friendship was more than either one of us was willing to deal with. So… on we joked and on we planned a late in life marriage.

April of 2008 came and I was huge… brace yourself… approximately 220 lbs/ 15st 10lb. I had finally realized something needed to change and I was ready to continue my journey of finding myself again. I knew I was there burried under the years of neglect and bad relationships but I had one last humiliating thing to go through before it was going to happen and that was my week with Jamie in NYC. I went out and bought my one and only size 16 jeans (US) and swore I would throw them away the following week. I wanted to be as comfortable as I could be with Jamie but I was terrified to see his reaction to how big I was. He knew I had gained weight because I kept begging him to not take pictures of me in stealth mode.  He was good at taking pictures of me from behind and that was a view that was strictly forbidden after a 2007 photo dis-ass-ter. As in, my ass was huge and I didn’t need to see it from that angle ever again. He promised he would only take pictures when I allowed and I wasn’t feeling like I would allow much.

So, the date of our New York arrival had come. We were in our favorite hotel again, On the Ave, and it felt good to be back there. We made a list of things we wanted to do this time and we had some people we were going to meet up with. By chance, our mutual friend Irvine was going o be in NY with his wife at the exact same time that we were, so it was set to be a great week of excellent food, friends and shopping. I was trying very hard to just be chilled out about my weight and know that it was going to be gone soon, but it was hard to see my beautiful healthy friend again when I was in such a state. I immediately became a little distant, even though he didn’t treat me or look at me differently. He said, “You know how I feel” in his letters and I did, he could see through it all even now.

When we booked our room we had decided on a King Sized bed to share because it was cheaper, I may as well have been on the floor as far away as I was sleeping. I wished we had had two beds so I wouldn’t be so ashamed of myself. Jamie was his usual quiet self, very absorbed in his camera where I think he feels most at home.

Where he was most comfortable

I was so uncomfortable, this time I knew for sure that I was unhappy with myself and these feelings had nothing to do with Jamie. He could not fix me, he could not love me until I fixed and loved myself. I set out to try to make our week as enjoyable as possible with as few mutually uncomfortable moments as possible but that went horribly wrong in the blink of an eye.

One night Jamie and I met up with an old girlfriend of mine from my year at Glasgow University. She and I had been the only American’s in our hall to stay the whole year and we hadn’t seen each other in years so we wanted to catch up. In hind sight it was a really bad idea to do this with Jamie there. My friend immediately brought up our boyfriends from that year and I I fell into that trap of talking about the thousands of stupid things we did. I could see Jamie becoming uncomfortable and even sad, a look I knew on him very well. Part of me was mad at him for not just being able to be my friend but part of me was mad at myself for not controlling the conversation a little better. But I have to admit, my friend is a force to be reckoned with but I could have been less eager to talk about the old days of our youth.

Jamie left us to go back to the hotel, at my suggestion, again another bad choice. I was not gentle about wanting him to do this, my temper was getting the best of me. Why couldn’t he just see that we were reminiscing about a year that was huge for us? Why couldn’t he just laugh at the stupid things we were remembering? Why couldn’t I stop being such a bitch? Why was that my automatic defence mechanism? The night ended with my friend joining us in our kingsized bed after she and I had a few pints at a local bar and laughing at a high priced hooker on our hotel roof terrace. Although it was a rough night for us emotionally there was part of me that was happy to have the excuse to be closer to Jamie in the bed. It was dark, he was so warm and I would almost remember what it was like to cuddle up with him… almost.

Another day we met with Irvine and also my old friend from high school, Thorin, Jamie had met him on our 2006 trip into the city. We had a really easy going lunch and it was so nice to have two parts of my life meet like that. It was always great to see Thorin and I knew he would be able to easily talk to both Jamie, who he knew and Irvine, whom he had never met. It was truly and enjoyable afternoon.

Thorin and Jamie

Irvine, Thorin and Jamie

Trying to not cringe. I hate this photo.

The next day Jamie and I met with Irvine and his thin, beautiful, fancy Chinese wife, Lin. God that made me feel so ashamed! We went to a coffee and tea expo and had a pleasant time sampling so many different things. I had my fortune read and it strangely aligned with my feelings for where I was heading and my feelings for Jamie. He had been no where near me when I had this done so I don’t think there could have been any visual clues that were given to the fortune teller. It was odd, and it made me hopeful yet so sad. I wanted to go home. I wanted to cry my heart out but I needed to pull it together, we had more of our day to spend with Irvine and Lin.

It was so nice to see Irvine as it had been so many years since we had last been able to hang out. He had been such a close friend of mine and I wanted to get to know the woman who had changed his life so much. I was not going to let a little fortune ruin the day completely. We  decided to go shopping mostly for Lin, but we all ended up having a good laugh at some of the things Lin was trying to get Irvine to wear. My Depeche Mode loving, combat boot wearing friend was going to be in a pastel stripy sweater over my dead body. It really was funny and it felt good to laugh. It was nice to finally get to know Lin and it was hard to say good bye to Irvine, things seemed easier when he was around. The tension was lifted when we were all together. I enjoyed those moments so much.

On our way home from leaving Irvine and Lin we ran into one of my favorite attractions in NYC, the horses. I love the horse drawn carriages and always talked to and stroked as many horses that I was allowed to. Most drivers are really nice and allow you to say hello to them. Jamie and I had never been on a carriage ride in Central Park, we thought now would be a great time to do it.

Smiles that hide the sadness

Saying good bye to our horse

During our ride we didn’t talk much to each other, I was asking the driver too many questions about the horses and animal cruelty laws to protect them. He was great and Jamie was very patient with me. We did have a beautiful evening to enjoy but I would not say that it was a romantic affair that most horse drawn carriage rides through central park should be. I am glad we did it but the pictures of us show we are tired. I had never seen those pictures until about two months ago. Jamie didn’t include them when he sent me the disc of our trip. When I saw them recently I cried and I knew they had to be included. The pictures say what we weren’t.

Our last day in the city my best friend, Holly, came in to spend some time with Jamie and to take me home. We had a nice afternoon. The weather was beautiful and it was refreshing to have her there with us. Before we left Jamie wanted to take some pictures of me with Holly on our roof terrace. I was not happy about the idea but I wanted a nice picture with Holly and hopefully at least one nice picture of me. Jamie always manages to get a good one. Maybe beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. I was smiling for him… I wanted him to have something to remember that I was still in there. I could still smile and I could still be in his life like he remembered me.

The real smile... my smile for Jamie.

Over the next 8 months there were only 18 emails from Jamie… in 2009 there was only 1.  x heather

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