I didn’t go to cause him trouble, but loneliness and culture shock do not make for clear thinking. The first few months at my Peace Corps were not going well. The headmaster asked me almost every day to repeat French phrases I didn’t understand. My students threw themselves on the floor if they any paid attention to my lessons at all. One of my balconies faced a mountainside and I could never see enough of the sky or the sun. My apartment got water only a few hours a day and my Florida skin couldn’t get used to buildings with no heat.
I had to take my whining somewhere. Why not take it to the man who’d been my traveling companion? We were supposed to be friends. That’s what he said–we’d always be friends. Surely his girlfriend wouldn’t care if a friend came to visit.
When I asked if I could come visit, he said yes, doing an admirable job of hiding his hesitation. The four bus ride to his site gave me plenty time to regret believing he was my best friend–all those adventures we had!–and wonder what I would say to the girlfriend who had traveled thousands of mile to stay with him–all that planning she was doing back home while he and I traveled!
He was supposed to meet me at the bus station, but after waiting a while, I walked on to his place. I did, after all, know the way. The love of his life answered the door. “Hi there! You must be Marta! I’ve heard so much about you!” She glanced around. “Isn’t he with you?”
“Hi. Um, no. I must’ve missed him.”
“Well, let’s go find him together,” she said, taking my backpack and setting inside. “He’s going to be so thrilled to see you–or maybe you want to go find him on your own so you two can catch up.”
“No, no,” I said. We’ve got all weekend for that. Let’s go together.”
She smiled brightly. She filled the walk to the bus station with cheerful chatter, asking me questions about the stories she’d heard and laughing easily. “He said you were funny,” she said.
A few minutes later we found him. He jumped to his feet, looked to me and then to her and back to me. “Hi,” he said. “You found each other?”
She grabbed his hand and kissed his cheek. “She missed you and so we came here together to get you. She’s been telling me great stories about you.”
He might’ve flinched. “She’s full of stories,” he said.
Wicked things to say came into my head, but I said none of them.
Later, I noticed that pictures of me had been removed from his photo album. There hadn’t been many and I was surprised he’d given me enough thought to think that necessary. There was nothing revealing about any of them.
That night, when they put on their matching pullovers and she called him a pet name that ended with –ee, he gave me a look and rolled his eyes as if to say he didn’t really go for that sort of thing, I laughed. I felt much better.
When I write, I often don’t understand why I write what I do. Where did that come from? What was I thinking? What is my motivation? I can no more answer that than explain why I went along with my traveling companion’s whims. How important is it to answer these questions?
Do you ever look back at something you wrote and wonder–where the hell did that come from? Or does it always make sense to you? When I’m in the midst of writing, it makes no sense at all.