It wasn’t me, she repeated a hundred times. It was never me, but it was her. She was the problem. She couldn’t stay too long – in a relationship or in one place. She needed to move, to get out, to see the world, to feel free. She bought airplane tickets like she would shop for clothes. Sometimes, I could keep up. Most of the time, I couldn’t.
‘Fifty countries, thirty-four to go!’ She would say with a smile and sparkle in her eyes.
So how can I not let go? How can I allow myself to cage her? I can’t. Because as much as I wanted her to stay and settle down with me, I can’t fight the wanderlust in her. It was too strong, even stronger than the love we had for each other. So I did what some men do, wait. I’d wait until it finally died down. Thirty-four countries? I bet she’d take a year to finally check it off her list. Even if she takes more than a year, I’d still wait. Maybe, just maybe, she’d finally choose me.
Who am I kidding? Postcards from different corners of the world have filled my mailbox. She’d sent photos of her with the Egyptian pyramid at the back; Machu Picchu on the right; the famous Halong Bay on the left. The list would go on and instead of just letting go and accepting that she may never come back, I find myself falling more in love with her. The longer I wait, the sweeter the kiss, I thought.
On cold winter nights, I’d go to the pub near her place and I would intentionally pass by her apartment building to check if the lights were on. There were too many cold winter nights, there were too many Fridays, there were too many drink till-you-drop Saturdays, but the lights remained off. Sometimes, when I had too much of beer, I would sit down on the curb across her apartment building praying that the window would open and I would see her waving and smiling. Sometimes, I would wonder where she was, at that exact moment; what she’s doing; who she’s with; or if she’s having the time of her life. Or if we’re staring at the same sky; or if we’re still under the same sky. Sometimes, I would wonder if she wonders about me too.
Seasons would come and go, but the lights never turned on. Postcards stopped filling my mailbox. Facebook never updated. I sat at the curb across her apartment building, contemplating whether to just give up and start dating. I had a job. I had a flat of my own. I had a car. I didn’t look that bad at all. I’d chosen to stop my life when she left, but I shouldn’t anymore. It’s been six years and most of my friends were married. Or I was probably the only who’s still hung up on a girl who fell in love with seeing places. She was never coming back. And I needed to move on.
I stared at the foggy window of her apartment mustering the courage to turn and walk away. I buried my hands on my pocket and started walking. I looked back and stared at it one last time, because I knew the moment that I’d walk away and never looked back, I’d be walking away from everything. And I wasn’t even sure if I could really do it. So I looked back, one last time.
The window was glowing from the incandescent bulb inside. A shadow moved and I stopped dead on my track. My heart beat faster and my breathing was shallow. I slowly walked back to the front of her apartment building and stared at the green window on the fourth floor. Eighty-four countries! Was she back for good? Or did she just drop by to finally say good bye before she relocated to some place like Nepal? Did she come back with a guy? My mind was clouded with thoughts, questions like what-ifs and maybes. Should I say hello like ‘hey-I’ve-been-waiting-for-you-to-come-back-for-six-years-so-I-kinda-put-my-life-on-hold-for-now-until-I’m-finally-sure-that-you’re-not-coming-back’? And before I could even make a move, the lights turned off.
I ran my fingers through my hair and let out a heavy sigh. I shook my head and started walking away again when the main door of her apartment building opened. I stopped and looked back and she was there, standing under the moonlight and starry sky, wrapped in the cold breeze of autumn. She was stunning, her walnut-colored hair hanged loosely past her shoulders. Her skin was sun-kissed and she was glowing. Her eyes were sparkling and her lips formed a little ‘o’. It didn’t even seem like six years. It felt like she was just always in there and I was out here waiting for her to get out of that large green door.
I slowly walked up to her. I knew I needed to be careful not to scare her. I didn’t want to seem eager when I had all the reasons to be. It felt like I had so much to say and nothing at all. We walked side by side, in silence. Our skin brushing once in a while and that jolt of electricity would still run through my spine and would not fail to give my heart ventricular contractions. I knew I had to ask. I knew I had to know, because I needed to. I was ready to move on just hours ago, but here I was, back to square one. I wished that if she wanted to leave, she’d leave forever so I wouldn’t keep on looking back hoping that she’d come back anytime.
We were quiet on the way to the grocery mart, and we were even quieter on the way home. None of us had the courage to break the deafening silence, but we both felt comfortable. When we got back in the front of that huge green door, I knew this was the moment. I’ve pictured this day on my mind every day for six years. I’ve always tucked this question at the back of my heart, reserving it for the day that I’ll see that light on her window turn on. I needed to know. I needed it for my heart, for my mind and for my soul.
‘Are you staying?’
They said, in love, fighting fate was the hardest. I think mine would have been the six continents.