We always traveled. It’s what we did. You said you wanted to see as much of the world as you could in whatever was left of your fleeting life. So I took you in planes, and boats, and trains, and cars. Anything to let you see the world.
A drunk man at my local bar recently asked me if it had all been worth it with you. Why had I stayed by your side until the bitter end, especially when I knew in my heart you destined to go the way you did? After I didn’t answer him, he proceeded to ask me if I had, in my opinion, done enough. I think I laughed. I mean, I must have. Because no matter what happens to me in my life I will always smile at the memories of the places we’ve been to. Those days on open roads were enough for me. I hope you feel the same.
To completely unravel your life I can’t lie and skip to the good parts. I have to explain the last days of our greatest and final adventure, in the dusty deserts of Nevada.
We were in a crummy motel, and you were yelling at me.
We had ran up the mini-fridge bill by your constant sipping on little bottles of whisky and scotch. We could hardly afford this trip, and you were definitely stretching it at that point. You had insisted we went to Nevada and drove on sandy roads so it looked like we were in a gritty 80’s film, and I couldn’t say no to that. I had worked overtime to pay for our flights and accommodation, and it looked as though you were pouring it right down the drain, sprawled across on torn beige sheets with your hair in tangles. I was going to bring you out for dinner, as one final treat before our flight the next morning, but we couldn’t afford it anymore. I must have been yelling too, but it’s all just noise in the back of my head now.
“Sometimes if it all gets too loud…” you once told me, when we were glued to our bed in the mid afternoon heat, “It doesn’t travel well through time. So all we remember is how we felt. Right… There.” You then poked me in my stomach. You were still a little tipsy from the night previous, “It’s like cogs in your belly trying to work it all out.”
“Like butterflies?” I asked.
You shook your head, “No, like hands.” You rolled your wrists, extending and curling your fingers in the air, in the early light, “Trying to grab ahold of what it all meant. But you can’t, because it’s all just noise. It’s just empty spaces and crashing through them, again and again and again.”
Your hands dropped to your side.
That’s all we were talking about in that motel too. Empty spaces and the crashing filling up in between them. A sigh and a smashed glass. Crying and screaming.
You see, I just didn’t know anything yet. I let hours of yelling grow and grow. We argued about nothing and I did even less to step back and realise the person I loved was trying to melt the day away, and I was standing over her, too busy to see that there was a reason behind the fact your eyes were puffy, and you accidently knocking all the little bottles off the bed, and the fact you were cowering with your nimble fingers pulling at your hair.
“I haven’t done anything! Would you not just leave me alone?” If I filter the noise enough I can hear your loose tongue curling around those words.
“Leave you, is that what you want?”
“No? Then why are you doing this? Letting me work until I can’t even move, and then need to come home and try to help you and your drinking, all because you keep skipping those AA meetings, refusing rehab. Then I try bring you somewhere because I love you, and it’s almost as if you really could care less. You just want an excuse to hurt me.”
“That’s not it.”
“No! It’s just that…” You sniffed and glanced towards the bottle in your hand. It nearly floated back into your lips, but you caught my eye and watched my face fall as it grew closer to your mouth.
“I’m… I’m sorry” you said, dropping it onto the nightstand.
You always said “There’s defeat because you don’t believe in what you’re doing, and defeat because you don’t believe in you. The latter is something that you can never be free from, and it will make you fail, forever and always.”
I spent a lot of time thinking about which kind of defeat you felt that day. I guess you could say you ended up failing in the end, but if it really was the kind of defeat where you didn’t believe in yourself we would never had made it to the desert in the first place. Let alone all the nights cooking, laughing and dancing on the cold kitchen tiles that would come after those traveling days. I believe you’d lost your faith in the drink that flooded your mind. I believe that you weren’t destined to go the way you did after all that.
That’s why you took my hands and pulled them around your waist.
You whispered into my chest, “I’m sorry. I love you too. I-I’m sorry.”
I kissed the top of your head, “I love you. I just wish… I wish you were better.”
“I…” You bit your lips the way you sometimes did to try and focus your bleary-eyes, “I never wanted to hurt you. I never would if I had the choice. But… I can go back to the AA meeting if you’d think it could help.”
“I know it will. You deserve to be happy.”
You laughed at that, “Yeah? Yeah, you do too.”
I tilted your head up and kissed you lightly. Some little touches burn in your mind forever, like imprints on your life that you can never forget. That afternoon your vodka tainted lips marked my heart forever. Sometimes I wish I had pulled away, just so it would hurt a little less. But then again, to remember your life I can’t skip the bad parts. I’ll let the burns scar over, and I’ll keep my chin up - if only to finish your story.
You pulled away, “I’m sorry for ruining our holiday. I know you worked hard for it.”
I shook my head, “It doesn’t matter. I had fun.”
I tried not to think about the hours I spent slaving away while you lay on the couch, drinking the days into nights, while a perfectly good job you had waiting for you from 9 to 5 just ended without you ever showing up once.
You kissed me gently. I was grinding my teeth again, and you always hated that.
“I’m going to try harder.” You said, eyes full of tears again.
I pulled you into me again, “You’re doing so good. If you can start these meetings, that’s all I need.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
And then you whispered something I couldn’t hear at the time. The noise in my head blocks it out, but I now realise what you had said.
“She’s dead.” You were crying and shaking, and you said it so under your breath I had no idea what it exactly meant.
“She’s what? Who?” I rubbed your back in easy circles, but had no idea the extent of the problem. And you just shook your head in response.
“She didn’t call. She won’t anymore.” You said.
You mother had called once to say that your step sister had passed away, but never called again to check on you. You had never really loved your mother ever since she had emotionally ditched you after your father died, way back when you were a teenager, but nevertheless, it was one more person giving up on you. You would tell me when we got home, and after you had gotten in a fight in the AA meeting and you had come home drunk, spilling your secrets. It’s funny how times can change. I just wish I had could have spent more time in other places before you had submitted to the latter kind of defeat.
You always loved the pink sky crowning the clouds that hung like rose bushes in the air. You loved the knots in your stomach the airplane take-off gave you. You ran your fingers over mine as we stepped onto new lands.
“Do you believe in multiverses?” You said the second you stepped off the plane in Italy, on our first ever adventure.
“Multiverses? Like different lives?” I had asked.
“Like whole other worlds in different planes of reality. One where things had gone differently.”
“I don’t think so.” I laughed, “I don’t know.”
“Really? Well you should.” You stuck your hand out for me to take, “Because these new places are different multiverses to us. There are different versions of our reality in every new adventure.”
I only smiled lovingly at your silly little quips, as you pulled me forward, “Come on, there’s a new life out there!”
To tell your story as it happened, and to completely unravel you in words, I can’t skip the good parts. In our version of reality we don’t live a complete tragedy. No matter how our story ends or begins, our story was a romantic adventure. It was amazing, and I wouldn’t swap it for the world. Even great tales have an ending that we would rather shut the book before, but the suspense, and the climax, and our love for the written word keeps the pages turning until the cover shuts. No matter what, ours was a great tale. I hope you can agree.
We were on an open desert road, and we were singing.
“Jane…” I said, squeezing your hand and your hair was whipping back in the wind.
“Alexander,” Your tongue curled around the words. Your head was out the window. You were yelling and laughing and telling me you loved me too. You might not remember all that, but I do.
“Do you remember that day you fell outta my window?”
We roleplayed your favourite song. You always carried around a recording of Home by Edward Sharpe and the Electric Zeroes, and we always sang every word like your life depended on it.
“Love!” You’d scream, and I’d scream it back. No one could hear us in miles of empty desert, but it didn’t matter. No one existed in our sandy multiverse, especially not this side of the chorus.
“Home! Let me go home. Home is wherever I’m with you.”
We’d scream until the tires lifted into the rose bush sky and the desert became our whole world. I told you I loved you, and you said it back. But where I said it to the wheel, and to my hand in yours, and that hairpin curve smile I loved so much, you said it to the wasteland we rode through. The vast wasteland that became our home.
“Home is when I’m alone with you.”