Chapter One: Goodbye
Note from Britt:
This is a story I've told many times...in one way or another. Truth is, Matty and I have had a wilder ride than we've let on, and only a few people know the story from all angles. I told him that I wanted to write it out like a book - without leaving anything out this time - and he agreed. I'll be writing a chapter at a time, not my usual planning process, but I think it will keep it raw and fresh as we go. Writing chapter one catapulted me straight back into the memory of the beginning of my life with Matty, so it's fair to say I'm already addicted.
"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection." - Anaïs Nin
June 17, 2013.
The sun glared through the windows of my Brooklyn apartment, curtains packed in boxes with all the things I’d gathered over the last two years. I was wide awake and swimming in a mixture of excitement, sadness, nerves, and a good bit of audacity. My mom was up packing the kitchen and chatting with my roommates about maneuvering the subway system without me while I ran off to see my chiropractor for one last adjustment before we hopped on a plane that evening. I asked her to stay home and get the boxes ready to ship while I went to my appointment, explaining that she could meet my friends and me in Greenpoint for a final goodbye brunch in a few hours.
Miraculously, she fell for it. I never lie to my mother and I had every intention of telling her the truth later that day, but things were moving faster than I had the ability to explain in that moment. I was 28-years-old and sneaking out to meet a boy.
I’m crazy about New York. I love it so much that I moved there three times. The third time around I took a job as a nanny for two kids in Park Slope, which felt completely out of left field, but somehow more creative and challenging than my previous job in the music business. Maybe I was tired of the office, maybe the kids were too adorable to pass up, maybe I just wanted to be in New York and I knew this job would keep me there. And maybe there was this guy in New York that I couldn’t stop thinking about.
I told myself it wasn’t about him. This was about my life and my adventure. I wanted to be in New York and so what if he did, too? But I was certain that I’d fall in love in that city and I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this was the start of my love story.
We beat around the bush for about a year before we finally started dating. It was wonderful simply because I finally felt justified after almost four years of waiting for him, but feeling justified is no fuel for a healthy relationship. In truth, we were broken from the start. We cared very deeply for each other, but it wasn’t the right kind of love to sustain us. It hurled us down a jagged path of misunderstanding, secrets, and pain. I was completely heartbroken and worried that recovery was a longer journey than I was willing to endure.
You do the best you can in times of heartbreak. You wake up, go to work, feed yourself, and celebrate the smallest tasks because getting out of bed is an act of courage. I was 27 and facing my first real feelings of loneliness. There was a sudden hole where he had been and I was embarrassed to admit that it even existed. I knew that I didn’t need him, yet I still felt empty.
In the year that followed I got to re-building. It was slow but steady and when I finally came around to forgiveness, I began to feel free again. I made new memories in old places, I met new people and started dreaming about all the things I could do or be. I fought the heartache head-on and I talked openly with people who cared about me. By the time spring rolled around I felt like the girl I thought I’d lost. I made the best friends of my life, I felt confident and strong, and I began to notice the signs of a new thing beginning.
One night in May I turned on my computer and started searching for jobs in Austin on a whim. Despite the strides I’d made, I was feeling particularly defeated and longed to be closer to my family. I was looking more out of curiosity than anything else, and not really focusing, anyway. The television was on and I had of carton of ice cream in my hand (defeated, remember), completely unprepared for the life-changing moment that was about to happen.
When the commercials came I glanced down at my computer, half-way forgetting what I’d just searched for, and read the job posting at the top of the page. It was, in that moment, my absolute dream job. It incorporated my administrative skills, creativity, travel planning, and Kenya, a place I’d travelled to and fallen in love with several times. I stayed up all night researching the company and growing more and more certain that the job was mine. I just had to let them know.
That night began a string of events that catapulted me into a new job, a new city, and a new life within a matter of weeks. I was terribly sad to leave my friends and New York, but that was overcome by something only to be described as pure giddy-ness. I was totally fine with change and was eager to learn what waited for me on the other side.
There was only one regret, and I buried it swiftly. From 18-years-old, I felt that I’d one day find love in New York City and here I was, finally leaving for good. I told myself that I had found love in the incredible friendships I’d made, and isn’t it funny how life works out that way? I was absolutely happy with this conclusion and felt no need to dwell.
And then a few weeks before I left town, I got a phone call from one of my closest friends, Dre.
“So, I wasn’t going to tell you this because you’re leaving, but then I thought, ‘If it were me then I’d be flattered and I’d want to know.’”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“There’s this guy at church who’s been asking about you.”
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that in that moment, one person came to my mind. I really hadn’t thought much of guys in that last year, and I figured that was a good thing. So it surprised me a little bit when I found myself hoping it was someone in particular, like he’d been hiding out in my head all along, just waiting for me to acknowledge he was there.
Yep, that’s the one.
And so began a series of questions before we both played if off as really sweet and totally crazy. Dre called him “Church Hottie,” an accurate description if there ever was one. He was a tall photographer with baby blue eyes and an Australian accent. I’d classify him as out of my league in a heartbeat so I was quite shocked, but I was leaving town and too busy to even go down that road.
About a week later I picked up my phone and noticed I had a message from Church Hottie on Facebook. I froze before setting the phone down and getting back to packing. It didn’t matter. I was leaving! Didn’t he know that? I’m my own woman and I’m moving to Texas and I’m getting my own apartment and...I’m actually dying to know what he wrote me.
Oh, okay. No crazy proposals or anything. I definitely worked this up in my head, right? He just heard that I like to paint and wants to see if I can help him. Not a big deal, Brittany.
The next morning I had an email in my inbox. He told me that I was going to “kill it!” in Austin and asked if I could paint a logo for his photo zine projects and he gave me his number, “in case it was easier.”
I totally took the bait. I felt reckless and excited as I emailed him back with a polite, vaguely business-like tone, then texted him later that night to see what would happen. It was Wednesday and I was meeting all my friends for a going-away party, so I knew I’d be distracted enough if he didn’t answer.
On Thursday morning he wrote back. He was in Canada getting his visa renewed and our conversation quickly moved away from the subject of artwork. We texted back and forth all day about travel, family, the weird tub in his Canadian hotel, and I began to feel a tinge of sadness that this wouldn’t ever come to anything. I was moving the following Monday and he wasn’t flying back to New York until Tuesday after his visa was issued.
Friday came with a different story.
“Hey, do you think you have time to grab a cup of coffee before you leave? I got my visa earlier than expected and was able to change my flight. I’m coming back Saturday night.”
I told him yes, I'd love to meet him for coffee. And then, with a hint of sarcastic frustration:
“Nice timing, by the way.”