Someone to Travel With, October 19, 2014
In March, my old co-workers hosted a team-building happy hour. We went bowling, and after had dinner at Mexican restaurant. My boss asked everyone in turn where they were going to spend their upcoming holidays.
“I’m going to Hawaii with my girlfriend,” one of my co-workers said.
“My boyfriend and I are touring Europe,” another girl said.
The last girl in the group smiled, “My boyfriend and I always go to the Dominican Republic once a year, it’s my favorite spot.”
Everyone looked at me -- it was my turn.
“No trips planned,” I said. There was a general concern and protest.
“You should take some time off, go somewhere nice,” my then-boss said.
“I usually travel alone,” I said. “so normally to big cities, just because it’s easier and less lonely.”
My co-workers mouths were gaping open.
“So er…” I swallowed, embarrassed. “I haven’t really figured out where I want to go, but if it’s not a big city, like the beach, I want to wait until I can get someone to go with me. I can’t imagine doing a beach vacation alone…you see…my parents are totally over travelling and my friends all normally travel with their spouses or boyfriends.”
Still more open mouths.
“So you know,” my voice rose confidently. “It’s also just really expensive to travel.”
Everyone, finally, stopped staring and nodded in agreement.
“You could do all-inclusive,” one of the girls said. “but that would the beach…so…”
My then-boss cleared his throat.
“So, anyone watching any good TV shows?”
Two Saturday’s ago, Bo wanted to go to Connecticut, his hometown specifically. When this idea was announced, I crossed my arms in the living room, having firmly decided upon a weekend inside. But Bo convinced me, in the diplomatic way of his, and early Saturday morning we boarded a Metro North Train to his town.
In the course of our courtship, Bo has taken me to Connecticut three times. Each time felt more special than the time before – in Rowayton we sat at a beach, ate a picnic on the waterside and crept through a graveyard at dusk that was lit by fireflies. Later we went to South Norwalk to ride a skiff to Sheffield Island, a nearly deserted, tiny wildlife preserve and then ate seafood on the water’s edge. This most recent trip was with a purpose: to pick up some things from his home and to show me where he was from.
On the train ride, Bo studied occasionally and then rested his head on my shoulder. I could breathe in, and smell his inherent Bo-like smell (for which, the adjectives are not yet with me yet—but they will be).
I couldn’t help but recall what happened in March, after that awful team-building happy hour, when I came home, threw my purse on the floor and called my mutti (mom).
“I just want someone to travel with,” I whined.
And yet, here I was, escaping for the day, Bo and I sitting together, his arm around me. It happened so seamlessly I hardly noticed it. In my pessimistic way I am suspicious of such a good thing, which also makes me appreciate it, to cling to it. To worry, be it warranted or not. To be wise -- “...quiet in the fern.”
Due to repairs, the rest of our travel was via a shuttle bus. It was misting out, and Bo pointed to every landmark out the window. There’s something illustrative about seeing someone’s hometown. It’s like seeing their anchor: this is what gave them their manner of speech, this environment is their status quo, these buildings inspire something in them that will never feel the same to me. A personal history changes everything.
At our destination, point B, the mist became a rain. After walking a block downtown, the mist became a full scale storm. With only one umbrella between us, we were soaked. I was introduced to his relatives looking like a drowned rat and smelling like a puddle.
In a little affluent main street we had a sushi lunch and we were given a ride through the city highlights: an area called “God’s Acre” where four different churches met at a corner, then one of the town’s beautiful historic spots: the Roger Sherman Inn. Which, as we were told, was up for sale.
“They can’t close,” Bo protested. We pulled into the driveway. “I really want Ariel to see this, let’s go in, just to take a peek.”
We climbed out the car and opened the front door. The intimate lobby still maintained its 1700s décor. I was most taken with the floral wallpaper and a large clock hanging on the wall. The face of it – with delicate cursive numbers fading away – was the most elegant thing I’ve seen in awhile.
A waiter stopped us when we went into a closed-off dining room. “I just wanted to show her this hotel,” Bo said. Then, without confirmation from the waiter that we could, we walked right past him. I giggled to myself, and thought, “It feels like Bo and I are on an adventure.”
At the end of the day we stopped at the SONO Bakeshop (Bo had raved about this place) for espresso and pastries. By the time we eased into our seats the rain stopped.
We were due in Manhattan for a dinner party, and waited for the train together, hand in hand. Bo noticed a park just yonder. Then an announcement on the platform that our train would be eight minutes late.
“Let’s run down the street and check out the park since the train is late,” Bo suggested.
“How far is the park?”
“Just right there,” Bo said.
“I don’t know…” I said. “What if the train isn’t late, we’ll be really upset if we miss it.”
“OK,” Bo said. Then after a pause, “this is something we’ll have to compromise on.”
“What do you mean?”
“I realize sometimes you are afraid of things…” Bo said in contemplation. “You don’t swallow pills. You’re afraid to go to parties.”
“I am,” I said.
“I’m more spontaneous, I would have gone down to the park,” he said.
“But maybe I could be more spontaneous,” I said. The train arrived in the station, we took a window seat, and Bo put his arm around my shoulders.
“No, it’s not good to change for someone else,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“It’s more important that I find out what’s important to you. That I find out what your goals are, what you want and help you get to them. If being more spontaneous is one of those things, then I’ll help you be more spontaneous. But if it’s not, then we find a way to work it out, to compromise. So then the question becomes, what do you want to do most in life?”
I had to marvel a bit at Bo's refreshing and wise response before giving my own.
“I don’t know, Bo,” I said. “I just got cut off by mutti and vati, I haven’t had the luxury of thinking in that way of what I want to do verses what I need to do to live. I haven’t asked myself that question in a really long time. I don’t know the answer. But…this conversation worries me. I’ve been dumped before for being so cautious.”
Bo laughed and rubbed my shoulder. “Hey, I’m not going anywhere.”
The train rolled on. I smiled to myself the rest of the way.