How often is the phrase in another life used when a situation doesn’t either manifest in our everyday life or, if it does, it doesn’t work out? There are so many occasions when I’ve heard these words spoken or used them myself. It would be in 2014 that I was able to see how this was a truth, one divulged to me during a dream when I experienced multidimensional existence empirically, writing about it as a short story in the book, The Eyes of Love See All. In this other life, in a parallel universe, what wasn’t going to work out for me romantically in my reality HAD worked out in this other reality. Following this discovery was the truth told to me by this ‘other’ version of myself that my lesson in my reality was to ‘let go’ of the woman I had a vested interest in, and find a way to channel my feeling for her into a creative project. I did that by channelling the most incredible collection of short stories I have written, in the aforementioned The Eyes of Love See All. This experience wasn’t isolated, that being writing, channelling a book to express unrequited love, this happened to me in Vancouver years before.
Before I detail that experience, which saw me create my opus magnum (she was quite the muse), I must endeavour to write about two other women I was lovers with in Vancouver that I also wanted to build a life with, one whom I did start to create a life with, only for it to dissolve in distrust, and the other, who I was intimate with a handful of times, but didn’t have my request for greater connection met. Despite my vulnerability when I made it clear that I loved and adored her. I met Dena Harrison in Port Douglas, Far North Queensland in the winter of 1997. She was electrifying in so many ways. An ageless beauty that you wanted simply to be near, so mystical in its resonance, I had some WILD moments with her (camping with her and some friends on a beach, next to a river up near Cape Tribulation. Worthy of a Darwin award since the river may have had crocodiles in it, or they could have simply come out of the ocean and snatched one of us), swimming out to the edge of Box Jelly Fish nets before sunrise tripping balls on acid after being at the wrap party for The Thin Red Line, which I had worked on for almost four months. There were plenty more. Dena was up for an adventure, and a woman like that set my heart alight. I lost contact with her in 1997 when I headed down the east coast of Australia and eventually to Tasmania and then around to Broome. In 1999, to my surprise, I saw her again at Nevermind restaurant, and I instantly reignited my desire to spend more time with her. As we moved in the same Kitsilano circles, it was only natural that we began to spend a lot more time together. She kept me at arm’s length, partying with me in 2000, and a whole lot more in 2001. In that year we became close. I got to know her, and as she opened up to me I cherished these moments for what they were. A discovery of what my heart desired the most. Her. She was aware of my adoration, and she was also aware of my philandering, watching from a safe distance as I began to show her more attention despite the advances of other women.
Dena was a regular in our crew at 2785 West 10th and Mac, a showstopper, a talented singer/songwriter who struggled with belief in her talents. Talents she shared with us, and we, in the crew always urged her to go for her dreams. She and I grew closer when Karen (who I had been in an open relationship with) and I broke up, and eventually her distance from me and my affection (not seduction, I loved her) was no longer present, I felt like this was an incremental move towards her and I becoming lovers first, and then connecting deeper and building a life together. 9/10/2001 will forever be an infamous night in my life. It was the night that Dena and I became lovers. My thunder was stolen the next day, 9/11/2001. I was woken up from my embrace with her by a pounding on my door. I had to take a phone call around 6 am from my former employer Suzanne who was in Toronto, who told me to “Turn on the TV!” That morning, all my savings and my dreams of travelling from Vancouver to Buenos Aires in mid-November 2001 for six months vanished. That is a story for another blog. In hindsight, I can see that my castle was made of sand; my belief that Dena and I could create a life together was washed away that morning. Though Dena and I had intimate moments together after that horrific morning, and despite my best efforts to express my love for her, it was to no avail. I would eventually leave Vancouver without her in late 2002.
In 2000 Eryn (my closest ally in Vancouver) and I went to a bar down on West 10th, one we would frequent often called Elwoods. It was a mid-week night, and we thought we would have a drink, get out of our perspective houses, and then head home. Sitting at a table next to us were two women, who struck up a conversation with. The redhead to my left caught my attention due to her cheekiness. Somewhere in our conversation, we talked about mantras. She said she had one for me, to my amazement. Her mantra for me was ‘ohwhatagoooseIam’ I repeated the mantra over and over again as she and her friend laughed hysterically. Eryn and I didn’t get the joke until she broke down her ‘mantra’ Oh what a goose I am. I had to laugh, she got me, got me good. I thanked her for making me feel like more of a fool than necessary and then Eryn and I went to leave. Before I left though, we had exchanged phone numbers, which was amusing in itself to me. When I saw her again we discovered we had many aspects of our lives that were compatible. We both loved red wine, cocaine, and great jazz, we both loved art (Karen was an incredible artist) and we both loved sex. She was my equal in that department. Her fire met mine in a way that few have matched in my life and we gave of each other in a dance of relentless passion, but with one caveat. We were not going to compromise our lifestyles by being monogamous. When we came together we partied hard and surrendered in ravishment to one another without limitation, but after we would go about our lives in a state of total presence and lack of attachment to one another.
Karen was fearless in her sexual expression with me and I with her. My heart began to burgeon and no lover I had demanded my attention or my affection more. I gave my all. Then, my closest friends from Australia in 2000 asked me to come to live in London. England. They had secured me a job, and accommodation and I felt the pull to leave Vancouver despite feeling a deepening love for Karen and a desire to move forward with her, becoming monogamous. I could see my decision to leave was breaking her heart. In poetry and art, she shared with me how much my decision was ripping her heart out, and it made me stop and consider my options. I didn’t want to leave her, nor would she have come with me if I asked her to join me, so I decided to stay. My decision to be monogamous with her is the driving force behind staying. In our open relationship, Karen had the freedom to express herself with my blessing. I had moved to a place in my life where I was comfortable with who I was, what I brought to a connection, and what was important to me. What was important to me when it came to Karen was that she honoured her path and will. One night I called her from a pay phone to find her in an apartment being seduced by a woman. Karen has never been sexually active with someone of the same sex, and she asked me what she should do. I said, “Life is to be experienced. Go for it if you want to.” She said she would, but she wanted me to be at her house in her bed when she came home. Who was I to argue? I had a restless sleep (I went to her house, lit the fire, drank some wine, had a couple of lines of coke, and listened to her jazz collection), and in the wee hours of the morning was awoken to see her come in the door. I’ll never forget that moment she, smoking a cigarette told me, “No one has ever let me be myself until you came along.” God, I loved her at that moment with such a passion that I thought my heart was going to explode in my body. It was short-lived though. We had an incident where my trust in her was compromised (old habits die hard or if you believe her I got it wrong, I don’t know to this day) due to me discovering a used condom wrapper behind her bed while putting clean sheets on her bed. I had told her if she had continued seeing other people I would walk away, we never used condoms and I felt comfortable walking away in that moment. I had resigned to the fact that she like me wasn’t ready for a committed relationship. I was stoic as I left her that night walking home as she chased after me, furious that I didn’t believe her. Perhaps I had willed myself to not get close despite my best intentions. It was easier to walk away and resume the lifestyle I had created for myself before I met her.
All the while during these two connections and numerous others I had also cultivated a slow burn with my greatest muse, Kathy Hobbs. It would be three years before I acknowledged this attraction, and it was three years too late. Kathy was a friend of my flatmate and friend Jen. She would spend time with us, enough to enliven the hearts of all who held her attention. She was radiant in a way that grounded the energy in a room with her brilliance. She had a subtly that took the edge off the wildest and untamed nights that we had at West 2785 and Mac. What do I mean by that? Whenever she came into our home we were in the presence of the embodiment of grace. There was a balance in her presence that made everyone feel safe around her. She and I had many a deeply intellectual or philosophical conversation that stimulated my perception of reality into seeing the world differently and cohesively. It was rare for her to join us in our benders, she preferred to keep her visits long enough to connect but had a life outside of the party scene that I knew little about. By the end of 2001, two aspects of my life became apparent to me. 1. I had to start all over again. I had to work, save and strive to survive. My drug addiction was crushing me. I was avoiding the pain that had surmounted in unrequited love with both Dena and Karen. I had a string of other lovers between, during, and after both interactions, but I recognised that I wanted to create a deeper connection. With Kathy. 2. I needed to be more forthcoming with Kathy, and these wounds and my traumatic childhood were best smothered by any means possible until I could find the space to heal.
In early 2002 Kathy and I had spent a night together, dancing, talking, and bonding deeply. We had the kind of connection that comes with time spent being vulnerable, authentic, and bold with one another. In the wee hours of the morning in Jen and Eryn’s kitchen, she said to me, “Come home with me.” I honestly thought it was the beginning of my forever after. We had a smooch that night, and I happily held her in my arms, not pushing for anything more than this moment. Why would I? We had our forever ahead of us. The next morning she rolled over and touched my cheek tenderly, staring into my eyes. The words that came out of her mouth next I will never forget. “Pha I love you. I REALLY do, but I’ve chosen someone else. You’re a traveller at heart, and I’m not sure whether you will stay with me or start a family. I want to start a family soon.” She was right. I was so far away (I was 30) from even considering this. She was a few years older than me, and she knew what she wanted. I felt like the floor vanished beneath me as she slipped her arms around me and pulled me close. I could hear her sobbing as I held her. I didn’t want to let go. I wanted to be the man she wanted me to be, but fuck me, I was so far away from that reality that it was like I was living in another dimension and had crossed into hers for one night only. So, three years of a soft and gentle burn for someone who inspired me to break down the walls that kept me from making a choice that I didn’t have the conviction to make, then or since. A choice that I was too late to make even if I had found the courage to do it. Her heart was with someone else.
I spent around six months writing the first draft of Sanctum in 2002. This novel was me channelling all the love that I felt for Kathy and Eryn into a magical dance of prose and poetry. It is a fucking masterpiece of dark fantasy, science fiction, and mystery school knowledge espoused into a visionary future where the three of us live in a waking dream, cast into characters in a parallel universe. Kathy was the muse for this novel, and I have had none more worthy in my life of my devotion. In another life I would have settled with her, started a family with her, and to this day be a devoted and loving life partner to her, and father to our children. It’s a cliche, but I know it’s true. So here I am. Left with a sense of gratitude for all three women for the gifts of themselves that they shared with me, and how they let me into their lives, their hearts, and their worlds. Thank you.