It’s peaceful and cold tonight. I’m sitting wrapped up in blankets feeling exhausted and trepidatious. You see- I’m going back to Papageno tomorrow.
It’s a strange thing to be going back alone. I returned to Europe, hoping beyond hope that my “situation” was a temporary one and Edouard and I could walk off into the sunset together.
The thing is, we both did just that but not side by side.
It’s bazaar to think we are on separate paths.
The realisation hits me in the worst moments.
I spent the day with my mother and sister today in Solihull. I realised as I was standing there, watching my mum pay for some shoes that I was leaving tomorrow.
I blinked, once, twice, three times, trying to clear my vision.
“Are you all right?” my sister asked, seeing my face.
I nod and walk out of the shop. I was not all right. And then in front of the busy shopping centre, I tried to find a corner, somewhere to hide my face. I felt their eyes crawling over my skin as I attempted to wipe my eyes and pretend nothing was happening. But every time I turned there was people.
You failed, a voice said inside my head. You will go back alone. You will be on that plane alone. You will return to that boat without him. And when you walk inside, all you will feel is the deep emptiness that Papageno now is without him. He is not there.
I could see myself walk through the boat, pausing at the photograph of us both on the doorframe. It was of our first night together on Delos. Would I remove it?
It would hurt to peel it off. The absence of it a glaring patch of nothing as I walk past, demanding I stare at it each time, remembering why I have removed it. Remembering that night.
I woke up two nights ago dismayed at myself as I looked at my hand. Last year, my friend of fifteen years separated from his wife. He had been telling me how hard it was for him to take off his wedding ring, that his hand felt off-balanced somehow without it. I gave him my silver ring that I had bought from St Helena, wanting to give him something that would remind him of his friends and make him smile.
Two nights ago, we sat in a friend’s house side by side with a beer. We had a few that night actually. Maybe more than a few.
“Mate, I need you to do a favour for me,” I said, looking down at my right ring finger. When I had landed in Brazil, I had bought another silver ring. It was simple, plain and with a small shell in the centre. I wore it on my left hand on my ring finger as a sign of my dedication to Edouard. I wanted no one else. I wanted that to be clear. It was also a reminder to me of my journey, of my evolution and of how Edouard and I met in such a magical way.
It was sacred to me.
The day before I flew back to Paris, I pulled it from my finger. It had blackened from the dirt from our work on Papageno and probably because I never took it off.
“Maybe it’s a sign,” Laura had pointed out when I showed her.
Maybe it was. But I didn’t want to say so. It felt like as soon as I said it, it would become true. That the Universe would hear me somehow and manifest my words.
The white band of freshly exposed skin stared out at me accusingly. The absence of it even starker a reminder than wearing the ring. I went to put it in my bag and hesitated, staring at it.
I wanted to be resolved. I wanted to be strong.
I took another breath and put it on my right hand instead. I wanted to make that motion before I saw him. I wanted to prepare myself. Because the idea of doing it after saying goodbye seemed more painful than anything else.
“What’s the favour?” Deakin asked me, jolting me back into the moment.
I took a breath and pulled off the ring, twirling it in the light. During the first two days in France with Edouard, it had become shining bright again, all signs of blackened metal gone.
I had thought it was a sign when it shone again.
But it wasn’t.
“I need you to take care of this for me,” I said, passing it to him. “And I need you to give me back my St Helena ring to wear. For a time. I want to look at my ring and be reminded of my friends. It hurts to look at this one.”
He took it, grumbling slightly that he liked the one he had and then made a little sound of delight when it fit a smaller finger.
“And then we’ll swap again when the time is right,” I reassured him.
An hour later, I tried to take it back, the absence of it on my hand screaming at me. My St Helena ring seemed dazed and confused.
Why am I here? It seemed to protest.
And all I could see when I looked at it, wasn’t the memories of climbing hills with Delos and swimming in the ocean. It wasn’t the moonlit dingy missions from the pub back to the boat, or drinking wine under the stars. None of that. None of the joy, the laughter or the accomplishment I had felt, when I had finally realised that I was healing with my Delos family.
All I saw was the reason why I decided to wear it again. And all I felt was pain.
Deakin batted my hand away three or four times.
“No Liz,” he warned me. “You’re not having it back. You’ve asked me to do something and you’re going to wear that one.”
“But it doesn’t feel right!”
He slapped my hand again. “No! Get down!”
The next morning, I woke up wrapped in sheets and hugging a pillow. Then I remembered what I had done.
The curled lines of my St Helena ring stared back at me. The stone had fallen out sometime in Ascension Island, the hole in the centre staring out at me indignantly.
Well, we’re stuck with each other now, it seemed to mutter in resentment.
And here I am now. Wrapped in blankets, thinking about doing this very simple walk onto the plane.
So simple. And yet it feels so significant. It’s the start of a new journey. And I had no idea it would turn this way. I had no idea that I would be walking alone.
And I’m so sorry for sharing this outpour of hurt this evening. I’m being honest. Because it feels so monumental. To be doing this without him. Without this incredible human being who hugged me when I was sad, made me crepes in the morning and rejoiced in the things that made me different. This human who made me want to be a better person in every way. His absence in my life is as if someone has fractured and broken the ribs around my heart, leaving a hole behind. The absence is like a castle without a moat. A person in winter without a coat. A house with no roof.
I will have to take the love I have for him and put it towards myself. To mend those hurts. To take things slowly.
I’m proud of myself.
I have love for myself.
But sometimes I falter in my direction. I miss a step. I trip. And the hurt comes back. I remember how it was. I think of my mistakes. I think about what I could have done.
How could I have made things better? Made them last?
But none of that matters now. Because it’s all too late. I’m already thrown myself down the rabbit hole and all I can do is dust myself off, acknowledge that it’s hard and painful right now and that is ok.
That I am not weak for faltering. For feeling.
I will take this journey one step at a time, eyes focused on the horizon as Papageno and I rise from the ashes together. I will learn. Grow. And I know it’s going to be hard. But, I have to go on. I know I have to go on.
Because in the end, it’s ok.
And if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.
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