Photo by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness ...
It feels like Dickens wrote these immortalized lines just for me.
I’ve been on a five year long roller coaster ride. I don’t care how much you love roller-coasters, five years is way too long. What’s more, I have another year to go, at least. So this news couldn’t have come at a worse time. I haven’t told him yet. I don’t even know what to say. The situation is impossible. It’s not like he can do anything now.
Long distance relationships are a masochist’s dream. Especially, for graduate students who can’t afford frequent trips.
My boyfriend and I live a two thousand miles apart and visit each other a paltry four times a year. I live in Eastern Washington, and he in Southern California, Pasadena to be precise.
Every visit is a blended smoothie of pain and ecstasy. First comes the mounting anticipation. Planning to see each other, buying the tickets, shopping for the trip, packing, at every stage getting another step closer to the much awaited moment.
The night before, neither of us can sleep. We spend the time on the phone whispering words of longing and love, tasting the excitement coursing through our bodies like electricity, a delightful agony. We’re so close, and yet not quite there.
The drive to the airport is when my body goes on simmer. I want to savor every moment of the journey, as I inch closer to him.
Since I usually travel during the holidays, the mood is festive. Christmas time is the best, with crisp cool air, the merry jolly carols, twinkling lights, happy faces and a general atmosphere of excitement and optimism, overflowing with mushy emotions. A white blanket of snow covers all blemishes and smooths out the rough edges. For sometime we all fool ourselves into believing we live in paradise and strangely our collective faith actually makes it happen. That’s what they call the magic of Christmas, I guess.
LAX airport is a busy labyrinth. I catch a glimpse of him from a distance, and I want to rush in to his arms. If my life were a Bollywood movie, I’d do just that and everyone around would obligingly break into song. But this is real life. If I tried it, I’d probably trip over someone’s suitcase and break a leg.
So weaving my way through I crowd of nameless faces my excitement peaks and there it stays, intensely painful. I make my way to the one I have longed to see for months. I jump in to his arms. The first touch sends shock-waves through my body. He’s warm, he’s real, and his hug relaxes all my taut nerves and then comes the release. I have never felt safer or more loved, and yet the tears won’t stop.
A perfect fairy tale moment, you think? No, it isn’t. I dare not even admit it to myself, but if I am being brutally honest, a tiny sense of disappointment creeps in. I built up this moment way too much in my head. No reality could live up to my insanely dramatic fantasies. But that’s okay. We have a whole week ahead. Plenty of time for fantasies. I squash the sense of disappointment, almost. But it threatens to overwhelm me. You see, this moment sets the clock ticking. It’s just one week.
Besides, after that first moment there is a bit of awkwardness. Why? Because we are human, and we wear scabs. What scabs, you ask. Scabs that protect our always wound.
For months we have to survive apart, and as much as we try to stay emotionally connected, bodily, we know we are apart and we try to adapt. We try not to think too much of the feel of the other’s caresses and touch. It’s too painful to endure. We can’t be always wound up. And now suddenly we’re together. We don’t really know what to do. We need time to get comfortable, but time is what’s lacking.
It’s the first night, and we have four of those every year. Neither of us wants to go to sleep. We’re all talked out since we spent every spare moment of the previous week on the phone. Now’s the time for warmth and touch, the real stuff. So we get cozy, cuddle and then some. Not all of it works very well. We’re out of practice. Fortunately, now we know not to be too freaked out, or even disappointed.
It takes a couple of days to get in the groove, a realization that horrified us on our first visit. In the mean time, romance rekindles in the form of shopping trips together, pinching each other’s cheeks, fighting over the last piece of chocolate, and going on late night walks.
The magic eventually returns. We have suppressed it for months, just to be able to get through them. It’s wary, but when it peeks out, it explodes. The thing is, by then we are halfway through the visit. Time is cruel.
We want to stay up late and sleep in, but when we wake up after ten, the next morning, I feel like we’ve lost half the day. We watch a movie, and a couple of hours just vanish. Time marches on, heartless and cold. It seems almost sadistic. I can swear that dollops of it just disappear. We’ve crossed the half way mark, I can’t stop thinking about the approaching end. Soon I’ll have to leave, again.
Every visit feels like an elaborate ritual before reopening a deep stinging wound that has only just begun to heal.
What’s even more scary, is the possibility, that one of these times it might actually heal.
It’s been a couple of weeks since my last visit. The wound is still fresh, but I know I’ll survive, just like I have so many times before. Somehow the knowledge does not lessen the pain. Thank goodness for that. The only thing that could be worse than the pain, is the absence of it. So many long distance relationships die when the always wound heals. It’s reassuring to know that ours hasn’t. Not even after five years, and for that I am grateful.
But now what am I going to do? How can I deal with this latest curve ball life has thrown my way. We have always been so careful. How could this happen and now? In just over a year, we will both graduate and finally have a chance to be together. But now, what am I going to do? You see, the strip turned pink today, and I’m not ready for it.
I told him, and you know what? It wasn’t so bad. He has this way of making things so much better. He said he’d come over and stay to help me through it. He said he could arrange to work on his thesis from here.
Could we really make this work? I’m delighted. The happiness hiding ever since I saw the result of the pregnancy test, crushed by a weight of worry. Not anymore. I’m going to be a mom and I won’t be alone. Tears gush down my cheeks. I make an appointment with the doctor. Yes, this is going to work.
The doctor just called. It was a false alarm. I’m disappointed. My worst nightmare comes true, and when I get over the initial terror, I’m thrilled. As soon as I embrace it wholeheartedly, it’s snatched away. Do we ever really know what we want? As life toys with our emotions, we learn so much about ourselves, don’t we?
Never mind. We have another year to go, and then our always wound can finally heal, I hope. We’ll do it right then. There I go again, making plans, just when I learn the futility of it all, and yet, what else is there?