There is a questions that keeps pestering me as I travel on.
Is it worth it? as I am blowing my paycheck on a flight deal and hoping I will have enough shifts at work before the trip to put together some spending money, too.
Is it worth it? as I am riding the blue bus to the Rio airport, eyelids heavy from crying all night, on my own this time.
Is it worth it? as I am standing alone in the corner of the bar and the blonde girl from Manchester I was talking to earlier is nowhere to be seen but she is here with three friends who don’t seem to like me and I am knee-deep in my third caipirinha and I can’t even remember her name anymore, anyway.
I have given up so much to be able to call myself wild. There are friends I haven’t seen in months. My relationships don’t last because I slam an expiration date on them as soon as they start. My mum keeps calling me every once in a while because on the road you just forget, you know? I try to tell her about everything I’ve done but I have trouble translating the names. I am even forgetting my Finnish.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to settle. Save my money for a mortgage and a mid-range Toyota. Have my things comfortably in their own places. Wear a ring around my finger like my heart on my sleeve.
Today a boy I used to love madly is getting married, and I’m getting day drunk on a Pisco tour. It should hurt; instead, I just look at him through pictures and remember him like a character in book. It’s a book that I read dog-eared as a kid but now I’m not even sure how the plot goes.
I wasn’t expecting to fall in love. A few years earlier, at a stupid age of sixteen, I had described a feeling in my lonely-hearts teenage diary that I falsely called love. This time… This time was different than any other time before. I can still see him standing there on the top of the stairs, calling out my name, his cheeks red like always as if he was constantly blushing. We had gone to the store together the day before but I hadn’t found one ingredient that I needed and resolved to buy it the next day. When he called out to me, he did it to let me know he had got it for me. That’s all it took; a silly packet of minced meat. I turned around to face him and I just felt something shift in my chest, as if a piece of my heart had literally been pushed aside to make space for… what?
I didn’t know what it was. Not back then. Later, working on some menial job with a distracted mind, mulling over the text chat of the night before, my employer gently laughed at me. ‘Someone so deep in thought must be madly in love’, he quipped, and I knew then why it was so different, why I was different. It was love.
The night before he left we barely slept. Everyone else had gone out to a mock-bachelorette party; the hostel was eerily empty, quiet, us the only two people in the world. Outside the dark tropic hung heavy and crept through the door. We kept the fans running, but the Australian air stuck to the skin and turned into a soft film of sweat.
I passed the night singing along to Coldplay on his guitar and making up stupid puns and wondering what he would do if I kissed him. Maybe I should have. At the last moment I decided not to.
We ate breakfast together in a hostel that was still asleep. I regretted I had booked my diving expedition for this day. All I wanted was to spend another day taking turns to lie in the hammock, playing each other our favourite songs, talk about nothing until even nothing ran out and we wouldn’t have anything more to say. In the afternoon I rushed through the city to get to him, and I caught him just in time for one last goodbye. He handed me his guitar and hugged me tightly and told me we would meet again, and he stepped into the airport bus and I never saw him again.
Broken love makes you more miserable than anything. It follows you across countries and continents, it tugs itself into your luggage and rides on your back as you walk through the most majestic canyons in the world. At night, it cuddles up behind you with its claws on your heart, and sometimes it makes you lose sleep so that you get up at 4 a.m. in an apartment that feels haunted to you and play cards against yourself and listen to the strange night-time radio until you feel ready to go back to your bed to your sorrow. Sometimes it is too much and you sleep on the soft living room carpet instead.
I searched for him in foreign faces in Perth, Frankfurt, Tallinn; in crowded bars and dark crowds; in sad songs and memories that I built up to be grander than he ever had been or could ever be. Every memory that came to me was a new tap on the fragile glass, and each one of them broke my heart all over again.
Until they didn’t.
Hearing his name used to make me wince; seeing someone who reminded me of him, that was too much, I’d almost cry out to them to see if it was him. He was an open wound until one day I thought of him and realized it didn’t hurt anymore. I understood this with a sad bit of nostalgia; I had grown so attached to my sorrow that it had become like a friend to me – a mean, toxic friend, but a friend nevertheless. Now it packed its bags and waved good bye to me at the door when it went and left me alone in my haunted apartment.
Years later I can think of him and vaguely remember what it felt like laughing with him, how he teased me about my bad accent, how I wandered out to the ocean the night he left and wrote that poem. It wasn’t even about him – it was just something to write. I run my thoughts on him like I’d run a finger over a scar; I can just about feel it elevated a little bit, and it’s slightly lighter in colour than the rest of my pale skin, but it doesn’t feel like anything. It’s just a little bump.
Now he is getting married and I’m ten shots deep in strong wine, giggling with some German girls I met at the hostel much like the one where I met him, and I keep tipsy-texting to another boy I met on my trip even though I know this one’s not going to last either but I like him now, so what can I do? I look at pictures of him, smiling with his eyes closed, his hands so tight around her, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen truer happiness. It fits him like a well-tailored suit. For a moment I let my mind wander and her blond hair melts into a shade of fiery red, the tattoo on her arms changes shape, and for a heartbeat he’s holding me with that stupidly happy look on his face. But I look at myself and where I’m at, ten thousand miles from home, tipsy and my beating heart open, my back aching from carrying my home on my shoulders and my feet calloused and hardened by the foreign paths I’ve taken, and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.
Is it worth it?
I reply to myself the same way I always do:
Yes, yes it is.
Hey there – if you read this all the way through, you’re dope! I’ve got so many stories like this stowed away in my drafts folder, half-finished… But unfortunately so is my Master’s thesis that I sort of promised myself to finish in two months. I’m trying to keep up a schedule of a post per week but if y’all don’t hear from me, you know what’s up. Anyone want to write my thesis for me (or bring me a glass of Pisco?)