When we’re lying in bed on our sides facing away from each other, both of our butts sticking out so that our bodies form an X, he turns to me and says You know if we both fart at the same time, we can time travel. The first time he said that I think I laughed. The second time I rolled my eyes. The third time I probably hit him whilst rolling my eyes.
We are on the cusp of running the clock backwards, sans gas. Tomorrow we will board the plane of nostalgia and return to the land that put hair on our chest and stars in our eyes. Until now Spain has been frozen in the year we were twenty-one. He in 2010 and me in 2011. He in Granada and me in Malaga. The year of reckoning when we were unattached, unbound by the ties of like and love and domesticity. We were single, we were free.
Por qué la ballena nunca come?
No sé, por qué?
Porque va llena.
I remember telling him that pun, the only Spanish pun I know, as we were waiting for a jeep to take us across the salt flats. That’s when I knew he told me months later.
I’m nervous about going back. I have staked a lot in the memory I hold of that year. It is the yard stick to which I measure my life experiences. It was the jump-off point. All the years before were the gradual slope to those 365 days of idle freedom, all the years after have been the search to make that feeling the staple of my life. And for a long time afterward all I wanted was to go back.
Back to the time when the tiny buds of my want flowered wildly and grew tall and reached ever higher, utterly unabashed. I wanted it all so badly and the world answered yes. Tomorrow I start to retrace my footsteps and return to that ideal, precious and breakable and enchanting. Now I am going back in time. And I must steel myself for the crumbling of the ideal.
I will see the first house mate I ever had again, my adopted mama who told me herself that my life had just begun. I will look and see if the first friends I made in Spain are alive and well, an improbable pair of old men who ran a second hand store out of a garage. We’ll see our basque housemates from Cochabamba who have only recently come back from life in la llajta. I’ll be on the same continent again as so many friends, so many house mates, the owners of so many weighty conversations that I carry with me still.
So what am I afraid of?
I’m afraid we will meet up and realise that we have nothing more in common than a random moment in a foreign time, one we have since sobered up from and would rather not have another round of. I’m afraid we’ll ruin the past with whatever awkward encounters we might have. I’m scared you can’t go back in time. I think the peril of too much change threatens to ruin the gloss of memory, memories I worship and live off still.
What’s brown and sticky?
I don’t know. What?
That was the joke he told me in Bogota a night or two before I flew back to Peru and on to Bolivia for the last time. I was nervous then as I am now, struggling with similarly formed doubts. Can you go back? Can you?
I was emotional. I cried at the airport. I was leaving him and seeing my sister again. I was traveling without people, just me and all my moody baggage in some container with wings suspended in the air. Flying does things to you. It is a miracle dressed as a procedural nightmare. All of the perfunctory preparation, checks and documentation attached to travel distract from the bewildering experience of aerial movement. The waiting sucks, the flying and looking out of the window is frightfully awesome.
That may be what my doubts are now. The cursory worries before the inevitable glee. Soon the joy will swallow the questions sitting in the back of my mouth, the doubts wondering if they should be spoken aloud. Will it be the same? Can we go back? Is the love still there?
Shhhh! Silence! says my joy.
I am going back to a place I love, to see people I love, with a person whose jokes I hate and love in equal measure. The love is what I pack with me.
What do you call a bear with no teeth? he says to me as we walk down the main street, holding hands after a very yuppy breakfast.
A gummy bear.