There was a throwback to the highs of our beginning. Sitting in a restaurant, drinking rustic red wine, I spoke French to the waiter, and you looked at me admiringly. At once the Great Fear of Separation tormented me. I wanted to travel on, but I wanted to be with you forever. I asked you if you thought that would be the case and you said you didn’t know. Then I was crouching outside the restaurant, hysterical with tears. I didn’t know either. What I knew was that I wanted more wildness, I wanted more highs, whatever that meant. I looked at you, sitting alone at the table, and continued to shake with tears, my arms dangling by my ankle, crouching by a ditch. There were no tools for comparison back then, only the moment, only the intensity of having been stared at all night long. When you first learn how to fly you’re too excited to think of landing, so it looms in the back of your mind as a dark—unacknowledged—shadow.
We spoke about other travels after that. But having traveled together, the dream was cracked at its edges. Something didn’t work in practice—on paper our dreams were similar, but in reality, they diverged. Reality was that you yelled and I cried. Reality was that I asked difficult questions and your answers made me sob for hours. And deeper still, unspoken, un-admitted—even in my thoughts: I would leave. A real adventure cannot be shared. A true adventurer walks alone.
So, alone I walked into Europe.
I would never go home. I would never again be the girl in Teva sandals who doesn’t drink and stares at a map loosely forming a drooping belly from a ceiling in the sweltering heat. I would never again dream. Not the way I used to.
For a decade I would say your name to myself and feel the pain spread from my chest to my shoulders: I didn’t deserve love. I didn’t deserve a home. Your face faded away slowly, but I kept on saying your name to myself. I had failed and succeeded. I was a true adventurer. I walked alone.
I remember our goodbye in Ireland. It had rained and rained as we attempted to walk the Dingle Peninsula, our days turning into a journey of mud. I was sullen because you criticized the way I dressed; you were angry because I was sullen. There were petty arguments about the budget and whom gets to eat what—the harder it poured down, the angrier we both grew. But at the bus stop, saying goodbye to you before I traveled on to Australia and you back to Israel, we hugged each other tight and cried. We said we’d stay together. I told you I’d never loved anyone the way I loved you. For a decade, I would recall this scene with guilt, but now it brings me nothing but a pleasurable melancholy. All the hard lessons I’ve learnt—those worth learning—I’ve learnt from flying high and falling hard. How fitting that what brought me to my first love was a shared passion for travel.