I’d only been in Australia a week or so as my boyfriend was losing his insides over the toilet in his Melbourne flat, overcome with a sudden case of food poisoning.
Luckily, his purging subsided and I didn’t have to call for an ambulance. He was able to fall asleep, by my side. As I rubbed his back to keep his chilled body warm, my thoughts started to drown out the quietness. Was I running away from something or running toward the unknown? Now I felt like the one who needed to vomit.
I was the schlub at a wedding that fears getting stuck talking to the person who loves to ask, “So what do you do?” As I would most likely stumble to find a seamless answer, “Well, I’m a writer, doing sporadic freelance work, going to Australia indefinitely, and my savings and curiosity are keeping me afloat.” I’d rather fake a seizure or set off the fire alarm than explain myself.
Then days passed. The weeks trekked on. We settled into the mundane. I was scrapping by with freelance work, and to no avail having trouble finding real work. Although I was in an English-speaking country, similar to America in myriad ways (minus driving on the wrong side of the road part), I didn’t feel like myself.
We started arguing. “What’s wrong,” he’d ask. “Nothing. I’m just tired,” I’d respond, unable to pinpoint the real answer. I was questioning what the heck I was doing and how I could feel so miserable in this beautiful country and with a person I thought I wanted to be with. Soon enough, that mysterious sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, the one so easy to push aside, became stronger, as it rose up into my throat dying to get out.
And this wasn’t food poisoning. Our relationship had flat lined.
We merged. We tried. We failed. Our time together was up. Maybe we were holding on to something that expired long ago, or maybe we were never right for each other from the beginning and the remoteness masked the holes. The distance between us felt greater now, together, than it ever had when we were thousands of miles apart.
“What do you want to do,” he asked one night.
“I think it’s time for me to leave” I responded. “This isn’t working.”
There was no way to resuscitate what we had delicately managed to keep alive for so long. We loved and lost, blah, blah, blah, as the adage goes, but the only logical answer seemed to be to walk away. A part of me became so consumed with making the relationship work I forgot that it’s OK to fail. Mistakes are necessary for survival. Without them we wouldn’t have the Slinky, or penicillin — inventions created from unexpected errors.
In hindsight, my miscalculation feels more like a retrieval of life. I might not buy a house this year, or fall in love any time soon. But so what? I was able to come back to the States stronger than when I left — more alone, but less complacent, and more alive. Excited about my life, regardless of my “status.” I’ll let my curiosity discover what wants to rise to the top, like the bubbles in a glass of Champagne (another mistake turned brilliant discovery), and not some ominous timeline.