On Loving Long Distance
The beauty of falling in love while you are travelling is that there is no expectation of who or what you are supposed to be. You’re a clean slate and there’s no known backstory to your life, which leaves you the opportunity to be anyone and anything that you desire. The unfortunate reality, though, is that the constant anticipation of the next destination makes relationships difficult to uphold. People always leave. You leave too. Sure, you get better at goodbyes. You comfort yourself by thinking of it as a “see you later”, knowing there’s a possibility that you’ll run into them somewhere across the world when the time is right. But it never gets easy.
The unreliability of Indian public transport and my incapability to be on time led to me missing my train towards Gokarna, which is where I intended to go. Instead, I ended up in Palolem, Goa, with absolutely no clue how I’d got there.
My first morning was marred by a few unfortunate incidents. I rented a scooter, but my driving skills were lacking. I got lost in a small village, then I was chased down by a pack of dogs. I ended up in D’Costa, a restaurant that was quickly becoming my local, considering my next plan of action. It was still my first day in Palolem and I already wanted to leave.
A boy and his friend were sitting next to me, asking for the Wi-Fi password. It was something ridiculous like “dontknow”, which caused them to furiously question the waiter. Growing impatient by the yelling, I interjected, and so began our first conversation.
His dark hair and captivating green eyes struck a curiosity within me as we discussed the occurrence of coincidence versus synchronicity. We found each other amongst a paradise of sea and sand, where palm trees lined a picturesque stretch of beach cafes and restaurants. He asked me out to dinner, and I was confused because I wasn’t sure whether it was a date or not.
It was definitely a date, and it was perfect. There was no nervousness; conversation flowed between us. The ocean whispered its blessings as we strolled down the shore barefoot, completely engaged in each other’s presence. Someone decided to set off fireworks, which vibrantly flashed through the sky against the glow of the full moon. And this was only the beginning.
The days and nights blurred into a haze as we desperately grasped onto every second that we had. One week was our time limit, but it turned into two when he missed his flight home. Every second was bliss. We kindled the fervency of fire, a constant intertwining of salty heat upon each other’s skin. We devoured each other, physically and spiritually, enveloped by love.
One morning, our little beach shack was emitting smoke. Confused, I got off the bed, stepping onto a pile of flames that had been forming below the bed. My laptop charger had somehow overheated and set one of my dresses alight. Unintentionally, we had set the room on fire.
Strange and beautiful things happened when we were together. We got lost hiking and followed a trail of butterflies back into civilisation. Technology always seemed to break down in his presence. We never made any plans or decisions, allowing intuition to pull us to the most random places. But all the pieces fit to show that this was exactly where we were supposed to be.
He treated me like a queen, and he was my king. We both shared the view that money is meaningless unless it shared and used for happiness. So we wined and dined, treated ourselves and lived in luxury (or as much as one can experience while travelling India). It was as though we were on a honeymoon, living this dream life amongst the alluring backdrop of Goa.
Eventually, we parted ways, love shining in his eyes as we embraced goodbye. We kept in contact, made plans and continued to do this long-distance love thing. Ecstatically, I bought a flight to his home country, South Africa.
In the meantime, my heart was his and his was mine, but we were physically allowed to do whatever we wanted in this time of being apart. “Keep it open,” we agreed. This was new to me.
For three months we managed, but then physical separation began to take its toll. I started to forget bits and pieces of his personality I had fallen in love with. I went to live in an ashram for a month, in nothing but space and silence, while he continued a very real life of event management and DJing. Then I fell for someone else and the distance and pain became too much for him. He couldn’t be with me anymore.
A month later, I stood in Johannesburg Airport waiting to catch my connecting flight to Cape Town. My mind drifted into unrealistic visions of him standing in the arrivals lounge with a bouquet of flowers ready to welcome me, us holding hands, wearing funny outfits at Afrikaburn. He haunted me. I’d spent two months dreaming of being around him again, but instead, I was alone, halfway across the world.
I went on with my adventure. Our paths never crossed while I was in Africa, but I felt him. There were times where I felt him so much I hated him, but I knew that he was in pain, and this was pain he needed to deal with without me.
It wasn’t like we’d stopped loving each other, but the gravitational pull between us hada lost its presence, and all we could do was drift apart into our own lives.
Three days before I left South Africa, I found myself in his arms. Everything that happened between us dissipated into nothingness. Once again, we were in the centre of each other’s orbit, where no one and nothing else mattered. Feelings came rushing back as we remembered how we began to fall in love, the passion between us that led us to deal with distance.
We spent one night in each other’s presence, consummated it, and I woke up tangled in his arms the next morning. We agreed that we couldn’t do long distance again because our love just can’t work that way. This time, we didn’t make plans. We didn’t know when we would see each other again. I got into my Uber, casting one last fleeting glance at him.
Long distance relationships are fucking confusing. Loving someone halfway across the world is like loving a ghost: you are aware of their existence, but they are not tangible enough to seem real. What it does do though is make you stronger. It teaches you to love someone for more than their physicality, to appreciate the sound of their voice, their words and their smile during Skype conversations or through messages long enough to form an essay. It teaches you that the first person you need to love is yourself. And finally, gives you the conviction to trust your heart and trust the person you are with, because at the end of the day, trust is really all you have.
Cover by Izzy Gerosa