I come home after a month of traveling and I feel a little bit angry with myself. More than a vacation but less than a sabbatical, I found myself torn between the two extremes and making choices that didn’t exactly suit either one. I write half of a blog post describing the differences in flowery language but can’t find a clear enough point to make it worth posting.
That’s not to say my trip was bad by any means, just that “short-term” travel requires a different type of preparation, one that I feel much better about when I already start thinking about next summer.
I fall in love with The Bartender at precisely the same moment that he falls out of love with me and I can’t help feeling that this will continue to be a sick, twisted trend in my life. Most people seem to add up to more than the sum of their parts, but I am finding it harder and harder to believe about myself each time I manage to push another person out of my life after a very short period of bliss. This scares me considerably more than being single again.
The Bartender asks me why I haven’t been updating my blog more since I’ve been in Peru. I tell him it’s because I don’t write as much when I’m happy. I’m not sure if that completely sums up this past year, but I wouldn’t change anything.
Back in my stable life, I finally learned to let go of some of the most toxic relationships in my life and I feel lighter than ever. I built stronger bonds with my students than I thought possible, and I spent my time cultivating relationships that are two-sided, honest, and important to me.
And then I left—again—to remind myself that I can take care of myself, that I don’t need more than I can carry, that I trust strangers and love challenges, and that new places are full of beautiful surprises.
The Bartender is a much bigger believer in monogamy than I am—I guess it takes longer than a year to erase past disappointments. But even at three weeks apart, he is as loyal and affectionate as ever. It’s strange to feel like I have so much to come back for.
I think I’m going to like twenty-seven.
I arrive in Lima at 11pm and feel anxious for about 20 minutes, before I situate myself at the hostel rooftop bar and get invited to a party. I get back to the hostel at 6am the next morning, and spend my first day in Peru lounging off my Pisco Sour hangover.
I plan to stay in Lima for a few days before heading south toward Cusco, but I am quickly convinced by a nameless Israeli boy with an irresistible smile to go north instead. Within an hour, I have cancelled my hostel reservation and booked the night bus to Huaraz for five days of trekking in the Andes.
I’ve missed this.
The Bartender has also become a four-letter word—his name. This is unusual for me, and he teases me with every botched introduction.
He’s just okay, I tell my friends, but they know I’m lying.
My fourth year of teaching ends today and I leave in four days for the summer. I’ll be gone for 48 days (if you’re counting), which is probably about the same amount of time that we’ve known each other.
So this is silly and strange and I’m skeptical about our poor timing and mismatched schedules and very different lifestyles, but he fights me with more four-letter words—ones like miss and wait and keep.
This one calls me darling and dear, and shows up in my bedroom at 4 in the morning after he finishes his bartending shift. We choose our words cautiously as we shyly begin to intersect our lives, and it is frustrating and uncertain and a little bit exciting. This is what it is to actually date normally, though, when you’re not living out of a backpack.
I don’t think I like it.
Too soon, I let the perfect amount of liquid courage lubricate my mind and my wonderings slip out. A remnant from before—when unclear titles became expensive quickly—I want to know what this is. I need to know just how much I should let myself want this.
I listen to a podcast about love every week and it reminds me of him, not because of the content, but because one of the hosts has his exact same mannerisms.
“Yes!” The host draws out the word to agree with a well-made point and you can hear the sincerity in his breath. My stomach clenches every time, because he used to say that to me.
It had been six months since I’d spoken to him and I am the healthiest I’ve ever been, emotionally speaking, but sometimes I think I make fewer good points now.
He texts me to say he’ll be in town for work soon and would I like to see him—not that he would like to see me, the writer in me immediately notices.
But that is not enough. He is not enough, I know, and I won’t let him lead me down this rabbit hole again. Not when it’s pointless and vague and weighs heavy on my heart.
And so I say no more sincerely than I ever have before. I miss you—too, still, and maybe always—but no.
I’m not really a crass person, I don’t think. But sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be a better way to say it.
I have given up on a lot these past few months—more than I thought I would have to, being that I am currently in my return to regular life, after all.
But I am practicing saying no more than saying fuck yes. Because maybe I don’t want to need you if you don’t need me. Maybe I don’t even want to be friends with you if you can’t love me. Maybe I just don’t want this baggage in my life anymore, and maybe I want to say yes to myself.
It is lonely. I am lonelier sitting in my own bedroom than I ever was halfway across the world. There are more times when I feel like I have no one to talk to, and it’s sadder because I know it’s my fault—my choice—instead of being played off as the result of time or distance.
I’m also pretty bad at this, this not giving a fuck. These walls are not natural and I find myself closing off more and more because I’m actually not sure how to be inattentive toward someone. I can only be absent… so I decide to do that.
I miss it. Adjusting to life without emotional intimacy is more difficult than I ever would’ve thought, but I also never thought that so many people would let me down so completely all at once. Fuck.