I sit out of sight, staring across at you and thinking back over all the times we shared together. Offering paper prayers to the dead on the Tibetan Plateau, getting dirty in the Cambodian jungle, scaling Scafell, descending Gill, Yosemite, Jiuzhaigou, Hong Kong. And now here we are, on the precipice of parting. For good.
We try and avoid blame. Blame inevitably comes into it.
I could have treated you better, given you more attention, massaged expensive lotions into your delicate flesh. You could have tried to hold it together for just a while longer – drawn it out for one last far-flung fling.
It started in modest circumstances – a Hi-Tec store in Swindon’s Designer Outlet Village. It was no Eiffel Tower or Central Park fountain. But my eyes fell upon you and the number necklace you wore so well. I tried not to stare, following the line of red down to your giant swollen tongue.
We were compatible. We fitted together effortlessly from the off. Like hand in glove. It’s true you would have looked better with a larger man – someone more muscular, thicker set but you didn’t seem to care. Not in the early days, anyway. I was tall and stick-thin, and you looked more substantial with me – it didn’t matter, because we were happy together. We were a whole.
I rushed you back to the house – it took all I had to resist the urge to have you out on the table then and there – take in all your contours with hungry eyes under bare lights. I’m superstitious like that. Instead, I broke you in around the house – double-socked, avoiding blisters.
Sometimes you inflicted pain – it was your thing – pinching where you shouldn’t, rubbing when you needn’t. Tender flesh and red marks in those early days. We learned about each other though, about what worked and what didn’t, just being together all the while.
It wasn’t long before we had exhausted familiar surroundings and were ready for our first real adventure. We were crazy with excitement, giddy with our own potential. Was it too soon? Would we survive? Was nine months a ridiculous amount of time to be away from all that we knew?
The plane left for Thailand. I didn’t look at you the whole way. I couldn’t. This was actually happening. It was all too much. The nervous anticipation unleashing a kaleidoscope of butterflies in my belly.
You didn’t like the beaches. Barefoot and bohemian, I did. You stayed in and sulked – I went out. Buckets on the beach, EDM, oblivion, mixed up flip flops at dawn.
The first weeks were difficult for you. I see that now. The heat. Being ignored. That heat again, zipped up in our room alone, neglected.
The guilt and regret repeat on me now, psychological indigestion, a slow-burning bile at my own selfishness, the blinkeredness of my newfound freedom.
Cambodia was different. We clicked. The differences faded and I learned to value you more. We went for walks, trekking over difficult terrain, taking in the sights and sounds of that beautiful alien land. Angkor Wat at sunrise. Losing ourselves in the thick jungle of the Ratanakiri province, a wild northeast frontier to match our crazy love. It was magical. We hardly spent a moment apart.
Vietnam, China, Nepal. India. Mountains and monkeys and monks. Oxygen-starved, nomadic, free at last, melded together at the edge of great tundra, tip-toeing outside of time and space. We walked koras, tapping in time to tradition, kicked dust in the face of danger. Traversed deserts under impossible stars, scaled sand dunes and snow-capped peaks with ease.
It came to an end. We flew home. Took it slow. Rested up. Let complacency and routine take a turn. Inevitably we spent less time together. Staleness crept in. There was a noticeable funk when I was around you. Your skin grew paler, blemished. I noticed your age.
Some weekends we still made an effort to get out of the house and spend time together. It didn’t quite feel the same though, not that we admitted it to each other or even ourselves. The gently rolling hills and cloying cow muck didn’t transport us from the humdrum of the weekly grind. The intimacy was gone, replaced with a functional, mutual dependency.
Sometimes my eyes would wander. I would steal glimpses of others like you, yet somehow more appealing. I couldn’t help it. You noticed, how could you not. And it hurt you, profoundly so. But then you knew that I wasn’t ready to give up on you. I was too stupid to see that you had already given up on me.
It felt like the end or at least the beginning of the end when we set off for China for a second time. We both knew what it really was – a protracted goodbye. The time we were going to spend together felt more like a burden than an opportunity. What kind of adventure was this going to be? Would we both survive?
You fell apart at the seams on that trip. The edges of you, what made you you, were becoming frayed. Some days I didn’t even recognise you. There was nothing I could do anymore – everything had moved on too quickly. Unspoken dialogues silently moving us beyond hope. That trip was the ending and then it ended.
You finally fell apart completely on the small suburban road leading from the home we shared. Split irreparably in two – your desire to protect me and the need to give up on me completely. It was embarrassing for me, people stared, gawped, but it was more than that. I was realising that it was finally over with each step.
I watch you still but it is just a memory, an apparition slowly disappearing. I loved you. I needed you. But it is time to move on. Time to find another to go adventuring with or at least to cushion me from the hard truth that there are no adventures left. You are gone. Goodbye.