Nathalie Guilbeault


Inhaled: An Introduction

What was meant to be a lifelong, passionate affair had shrunk into
a minuscule version of itself, slowly burning out at its core, leaving the
simmering ashes to become a cold powder. I never thought my years of
marriage were perfect. Who’s are? But, I had held the firm belief that to
better one’s relationship, however flawed, you must look inside, not outside
the marriage.

I knew I was not the only woman who had had the safety of her world
destroyed, the structure of her life disjointed, the foundation of her union
blasted. Countless stories depicting evidence of marital crumbling are
readily available to the insecure voyeur like me, seeking reassurance in
futile comparisons. I wanted to share my story, not as a premise for revenge,
no; I wanted to unburden myself from the encompassing guilt that had
woven its way into my stomach. I needed to describe, in painful detail,
this unexpected life passage I had chosen to walk, its fine line sometimes
erased or redrawn, oblivious to the hurt and destruction that would ensue.

My desire to share was a function of survival, as I needed to finally
breathe properly, dilute the shame and access the universe’s forgiveness.

From the moment we decided to sell our house and cars, pack our
container and leave Montreal, I felt the urge and stamina to finally write.
Fate had interfered and injected multiple obstacles to stunt my initial efforts,
until the right subject had imposed itself on me.

What follows is the description of my journey into an unknown world,
a senseless world devoid of depth and purpose. A world where mistrust and
deceit seep their way into everyday life, guiding the twisted and misguiding
the wronged.

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Inhaled: Chapter One Excerpt

My mind, and only my mind, started to wander early on in my marriage,
revealing the permeability of its seal. The courtship had been long and
relentless on John’s part, his insistence drilling successfully through the
boundaries I had thought solid. But in all honesty, the decision to marry
still came rapidly, as I decided, almost unilaterally, he was going to be the
one. He had struck his own black gold.

The pre-honeymoon phase took a nosedive one week prior to the ceremony.
It was more than a case of cold feet; this was pure, visceral knowledge
that he, most likely, was not the man for me. I remember the morning of
the wedding, telling my maid of honor that I could not go through with it.
There I was in my rose-colored silk dress, with freshly-curled hair, a hint
of makeup, and a yellow and pink rose bouquet in hand. Elegantly dressed
in a yellow tailored suit and a blue wide-brimmed hat, my girlfriend of 15
years stood silently in the doorway leading to the garden. This moment
would crystallize into an emotional blueprint for both her and me. It would
become a canvas where the consequence of my ignored inner voice would be
immortalized. Though I was teary-eyed and paralyzed with fear, she still led
me to the limousine awaiting us at the edge of the garden. Caught in a daze,
I let myself be led. I was going to marry John; there was no turning back.

To be fair, it was a gorgeous day and an exquisite 50-guest lunch affair. It
was held in one of Montreal’s landmarks: a quaint little Inn, located where
the International and Universal Exposition had been held in 1967. John
and I had planned the wedding together and the venue had been carefully
scouted. It had an unbelievably beautiful rose garden and a country ambiance
that made a small, inexpensive wedding feel grandiose and regal.

At 28 years old, fresh from a seven-year relationship that had ended badly,
I had fallen in love with a man who would prove immature his whole life
through. At first, I had been seduced by John’s tenacity, his perseverance
in courting me. That someone was able to keep up with my abrupt and
cynical side had stoked my curiosity, as each of my genuine pushbacks had
been met with such nonchalance and humor. It would take me 23 years to
rightly interpret the significance and true meaning of his approach.

I remember walking happily on St. Paul Street, with him poking my
introverted bubble with such laid-back insouciance. He would grab the nape
of my neck, without evaluating the comfort level at which I would allow
such close physical contact, and I would pull away. This would become one
of the many metaphors illustrating the challenge of living with someone
who allowed the reptilian part of his brain to dictate most of his decisions
and behaviors. But the romantic veil, behind which the first stages of love
is unleashed at the start of any relationship, prevented me from seeing it,
his toxic impulsivity.

From the beginning of our relationship, the sensations I extracted from
my time spent with him were sensations that filled me with unconditional
acceptance. And that was my opium. For the duration of my entire marriage
with John, I would rely on this feeling to legitimize my union with him
and to tolerate the many deviant behaviors that would come to mark our
relationship. So yes, the way he fully accepted me, the whole of me, complete
with my curvy personality and sharp edges, had seduced me.
“He truly wants me. This is what love is supposed to feel like,”
I had thought.

John and I met at a private party in Montreal, and I would later understand
that his emotional inadequacy was responsible for what I perceived as
his tenacity. He had followed me to the taxi, running behind me, begging
for my phone number, which I had declined to give him. He had attended
the party with his then-girlfriend but seemed oblivious to her presence,
and oblivious to my reticence to give in to him.

Somewhat handsome, an average 5 feet, 11 inches, his body, while
somewhat lean, showed signs of impending doughiness. Our lovemaking
had allowed me to touch and feel the potential for his body to become fleshy.
I understood that he probably had peaked physically a few years earlier, his
trained body then the subject of an intense sports regimen. I would discover
over time, how my slow disinterest for all things sexual would correlate
with John’s inability to care for himself: body and soul. I would see a lean,
well-kept body and my stomach immediately would tighten, my heart race
inside my chest, pulsations of want reddening my cheeks. The sight of a fit
body would awaken sensations that would tingle their way to my insides,
preparing the terrain with gliding substances meant to ease the pleasure.
But for years, that terrain would become stale and remain sexually incapable
of welcoming the strongest dandelion seeds.

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