Travel: On Separation and Connection
A river mirrors the sky
and a strip of life
sits in between
the middle of the blues
I was reminded
that my internal world
was never really private
because my external life
has always reflected
it back to me
and I’ve been in the middle
the whole time.
I step out of the plane, mimicking its mechanics, and kick into my own auto-pilot function. My conscious brain is lost between time zones. I merge onto the freeway of people flitting off to their respective gates. Are they celebrating? Mourning? Running away from an old life and creating a new one? Who knows. People don’t show their emotions at the airport once they’ve left something behind.
I sit outside the sausage party happening in the smokers room, observing the constant exhalation and the discomfort of any female who walks in trying to air out her addiction. I walk in just to see how uncomfortable it actually is, and to air out my own. I stay on my phone the whole time, so I guess that confirms it. The endless mushroom cloud turns my brain into TV static, so I let my legs siphon me out of the exclusion zone.
I claim some vacant airport-floor real estate and watch a father and child play ball as if they were in a utopia similar to that of the ‘Wouldn’t it be Nice if the World Was Cadbury’ ad. It reminds me that people aren’t shit and I need to stop thinking arsehole-ish thoughts in public. It’s the first time I’m actually alone, with no goal attached to the present moment to work towards. Only time.
Even my flight from Brisbane wasn’t lonely. I was sat next to a lovely couple who were on their way to their Italian honeymoon. We had different views on life, but got along fantastically. Them getting me progressively drunk over the eight hours helped.
Flight attendants clued onto the fact that they were in celebration, and showered them with a fairy-lit tray of cake and champagne, and a cup of dry ice for extra-added attention to detail that you are alone and not going on a mountain-biking adventure through Italy with your newlywed.
Though, I’m too excited to miss my partner, friends/ and family yet. I’ve been looking forward to see what kind of person I am entirely removed from everything I know. I think it’s important to do that in order to not get sucked into the illusions co-created by you and your everyday life. And that’s why I booked a writing course in Spain.
I’m somewhere between the Pyrenees and San Sebastian, sitting on a bus that has all the added accoutrements of a plane. The sky matches my flu-induced mood, and the landscape has grasped the moisture and deepened. I had no idea that Spain could be melancholic and cosy. Its skin is heat and flamenco, but within, it’s like any human: soft and vulnerable.
How do I feel in this place? Very comfortable. Spain’s vistas and cities have impressed but not shocked me. It all feels strangely familiar, as if I’ve been here before. Or perhaps it’s exactly where I need to be.
A week into my first trip with a group of strangers has been a lesson in communicating effectively with others. It is the onus of the person delivering a message to make sure that others receive it. It takes the subconscious belief that your discourse is worth being discussed.
Being vulnerable is a point of contention in society, something extremely over-talked but rarely mastered. The ability to look into a shattered mirror and still see yourself as whole is a skill that is constantly forgotten, but a lesson that is always presented.
After Spain, my partner and I reunite in Paris. We’ve had a month apart. In distance, we played with the thread of longing. It was silky and dark, and we wove it between our fingers to create beautiful patterns. Once the person is in tangible form, speech unimpeded by a Vodafone sim, you laugh at the idea of distance, because it never existed. What laughs back at you is the adjustment period of two people who have learned to function independently. Mine was manically cackling.
We spend many hours in the car, where the tune of silent dissonance plays into our minds. It creates the energy of two magnets with the same charge being forced together. It only takes one to turn around to be attracted back to each other. Our first day in Italy is the impetus.
He confronts the rock beneath my politely withdrawn exterior, and it breaks along the fault line. Ash sprays through our bedroom, into the courtyard, and finally into the car — the place where the magma was formed.
I’ve realised that intimacy is what I was trying only to be a voyeur of. I thought the identity of I’m in a relationship was synonymous to I’m being open and doing enough. It was a lie and it slowly hurt the other person. A month on the road in Spain being around people all the time subconsciously made me feel like a personal sanctity was stolen. But that’s ego. An autoimmune disease of thought, passionately protecting the idea of itself to the point of destruction.
My partner and I travel onto Lake Como and find that words can’t fix our problems anymore. Only touch.
“Ah, welcome back to reality!” says every coworker, hungry to punish the weeks of bragging I’ve enacted prior. The phrase makes me confront the fact that this was the reality I’d chosen for a long time.
Each day forth, I cynically rip a layer from the place I call home. Sometimes, others join in on the carnage. The tissue paper of politics, culture and ideology is shredded meticulously in this game of pass the parcel. At the end, I’m not left with a present – only my two hands that destroyed it. In the life, death, rebirth cycle that permeates through our experiences, I reach the latter.
I finally sit down and have the courage to look back on so many years of my life that I wasn’t actively involved in. Directed by me, produced by aloofness. Contractions of the day-to-day in my labour of living manage to push me out and into a harsh truth. Those two months where I savoured each momentary flection have made it impossible to go back an onset bore.
I’m not living to feel safe. Because to be safe, so much of me has to die.
The dichotomy of strength and fragility
is as old as time
though a battle never finished
For those two sides
don’t work as enemies
They are the agreement
between your lover’s coarse hand
and yours soft
The negative space between each finger
When you interlock two worlds
you see that difference
is not equal to enemy
It’s countries rejoining after lifetimes apart
to create a unique ecosystem
that sustains new life and ideas.