“Have you ever broken up with someone when you were perfectly happy?”
He thinks for a minute, nods.
“Yep. This girl in college. I was moving away and it would’ve been a long distance relationship, so we decided to just be friends.”
Which is what we’re going to be when I leave my lover and travel to the other side of the globe for an indeterminate amount of time. Except the kind of friends that don’t talk to each other. Like, at all.
There are a lot of things contributing to my going to Nepal, but the main thing is that we can’t be together right now. If we stay together right now, it means disaster in the future. And we both want to be together in the future. Calling it quits for now seems like the only way to give the relationship a chance. It sounds counterintuitive, but we both know it’s true. And it sucks.
I knew we wouldn’t be able to “keep in touch” either. The idea of Skype-ing once a week after spending 24/7 with someone is like getting chocolate once a year – it’s not enough, and simply serves to remind you of how much you fucking miss chocolate in the first place.
Besides, I’d been down that road before when I went to Taiwan. Balance is not my strong suit, and as my sweetie so astutely observed as we walked slowly, deliberately toward our final dinner out together, “You’re kind of all or nothing.”
It’s true. I can either be traveling, and throw myself into a new country like a golden retriever into a swimming pool, or cower in my hotel room, nervously awaiting the arrival of that golden hour when the person back home finally wakes up and can console me in my culture shock and lonely grief.
No, I wouldn’t do that again. If I was going to Nepal – and I was, most certainly, going to Nepal – I would be there fully. I would have to let him go.
Tonight we’re both in good spirits. It’s a holiday and we’ve decided to spend it gorging ourselves at a hotel buffet. We swim through the hordes of people like hungry dolphins, balancing plates like magician’s assistants, our eyes bulging at the cornucopia of lobster, shrimp, prime rib, a crepe station (!)…
We eat. We drink. We’re merry.
I long to say something meaningful, to beg him to reconsider, to make him make me change my mind.
But it’s too late. And there’s no point. And instead we laugh, and enjoy each other, and tuck the pain of the coming weeks and months in our pockets for safe keeping.
I miss him when I’m with him, so I can’t imagine how much I’ll miss him when I’m not.
In the morning, he brings me coffee while I pack the rest of my things. We wait outside for the car to come pick me up. It will drive me to the shuttle, which will drive me to the airport, where there is a plane waiting to swallow me whole and take me away from him.
It’s raining, a bizarre Los Angeles phenomenon that seems perfectly suited to the occasion. My waterproof backpack proudly shields my menagerie of clothing from the light mist as if to say “See? I was a good investment.”
The car arrives, and the poor, baffled driver looks at the ground, embarrassed as we hug and kiss and cry one last time. My tears flow freely and he is silent as I climb into the cab.
My love stands stoic in the rain, watching the car pull away, waving in a way that says “Have the time of your fucking life” and “I’m sorry I couldn’t be in the place you needed me to be” and “I’m so relieved you’re finally going,” all at the same time.
20 minutes later he calls. It’s finally hit him. He’s devastated.
Once, when we were having a discussion and I was hurt and crying, I asked him why he was so calm and collected. And he said, “Because right now it’s your turn to be sad. We can’t both lose our shit.”
The generosity of this remained a mystery to me until this moment, when suddenly I had to be the strong one.
“It’ll be ok.” I said. “I love you,” I said.
A few hours later, it’s time to board. This is the last call I make before suspending my phone service, which Verizon lets you do for up to 3 months without billing. (If you do this, keep in mind that you have to call from a different phone to do it – I used a payphone.)
The final goodbye. I call and he is at the gym. His voice is different now. He is distracted. Happier. He is ready to let me go.
It’s a good thing the doctor prescribed me Valium for the 14-hour flight to Shanghai. I thought I’d need it to help me sleep, when in actuality it will be a numbing elixir, a potion to calm the swirling, churning waters of my stormy ocean heart.
Goodbye, my love.
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