Part 7: The therapist talks about listening and being receptive to the other’s point of view and you realize all these instructions for really for you alone Your lover picks at their fingernails until the therapist pauses. When they unfold their prepared items for discussion, their hands tremble just a little. The urge to reach out is so powerful you sit on your hands. You’re good at sitting on your hands.

Our life together is undermined by instability. I wonder if it can be any other way with you. I wonder if I’m crazy for staying. I wonder if I’ve done something to deserve this. We’re in a situation where even the concept of planning for the future is in danger – will there be work? Will there be positive change? Will we continue to love our friends and family as they distance themselves from you? Sometimes – and this is difficult to admit – I feel like this relationship is abusive.

What? No. I would never hurt you.

MUN Sociology professor Stephen Crocker tells us what’s been going wrong with the province’s determination to build Muskrat Falls.

But don’t you see that even if it isn’t your intention, the result is the same? I have no say, no choice, and am helpless to watch the good things we have going on be overshadowed by toxic behaviour. Abuse means you are overwhelmed by a force who does not care for your well-being, who only thinks of themselves and will keep you down and silent and unhealthy as long as they get what they want. This is what is happening to us now.

The air in the office thins, fills with fine grit. Ridiculous, you say. It is ridiculous to think I would abuse you.

See, now I feel you’re not listening to me.

I’m not going to listen to ridiculous claims, no.

Sometimes, the therapist says, abusers get upset when boundaries are set, especially when they benefit from no boundaries.

All I am is friggin’ boundaries. Everything is a quota or a cutback or a fee. I have so many boundaries, I’m surprised no one’s decided to tax them.

You’re shouting at me.

I’m not shouting at you. I’m just shouting.

By no boundaries,the therapist says, we mean no limit on self-destructive behaviour. No pause to consider how it affects the people who rely on you.

But none of this is my fault. I didn’t want any of this.

That can’t change how I feel.

But I love you. Don’t leave me. We’ll change things around. We can do it.

I don’t know. How can ask for healing from someone who can’t take care of themselves?

You stare at your lover, willing them to look up while they stare a hole in the floor. The therapist is trying to guide you out, first with suggestions, then with firmness. Then a hand on your shoulder that presses your last button. You jump up too fast. Your chair topples to the floor. The therapist reaches for the phone.

Oh wait, I guess if I don’t listen, I’m the bad one, you say. No matter what I do, the results are the same.

You need to leave now.

You make sure to slam the door extra hard on the way out. The last sound from inside in your lover’s exasperated sob.


Read more from the Post-Oil NL project. You can find other fiction and nonfiction stories related to the Post-Oil NL project here.

All this started with a set of discussion papers organized by Memorial University sociology professor Barb Neis in 2016, called Asking the Big Questions: Reflections on a Sustainable Post Oil-dependent Newfoundland and Labrador. We’ve built a bunch of stories around the issues we read about in the papers: audio stories, flash fiction, opinion, and essays. (We’ll keep dropping new content every two weeks.) I’d like to thank Barb Neis and the authors of the sixteen discussion papers for starting this discussion and for talking to us about their visions (or nightmares) for the future.

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Michelle Porter is a writer and academic. Her first novel will be published by Penguin Canada in spring of 2023. Her next creative nonfiction book, Scratching River, blends Métis history with contemporary family stories and will be published by Wilfrid University Press in 2022. Another book of creative nonfiction, Approaching Fire (2020), was shortlisted for the Indigenous Voices Awards 2021. Her first book of poetry, Inquiries, was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for Best Book of Poetry, Canada 2019 and was a finalist for the E.J. Pratt Poetry Award 2021. She is a citizen of the Métis Nation and member of the Manitoba Metis Federation.