Leaving

Lundi méchant in Bujumbura was two years ago. I was travelling then. I went home, got a job and started working. That lasted about a year. I am now travelling again.

I realised, as I stood on the side of the road blinking back tears, that I was running away. The thought appeared like a bubble, fully formed in my brain. I wasn’t simply going travelling, leaving to see the world and to find my fortune, I was running away. It seemed so obvious that I was surprised it hadn’t occurred to me earlier.

I was running away from the black SUV driving away down the road, or, more accurately, its driver. Leaving seemed like the easiest way. Saying how I really felt was too scary. Instead I decided to leave. I said it would be too complicated to try to make it work. That I didn’t know where I would be in six months time. If I can’t promise myself what I’ll be doing then, how can I promise myself to you? I said. I need to do this, I would say, rather than the more honest I want to do this. I was afraid of the pain it would cause, unable to look into her eyes and tell her I didn’t see us sharing the same future. Spineless I know, cowardly even, but whenever I tried to explain further the words would dry up even as the reasoning and thoughts and explanations continued to flow through my mind.

I agonised over my situation as if this dilemma was unique to me and that I was the only young person of this self-absorbed generation of ours to feel torn between pursuing my dream or maintaining a meaningful relationship. You don’t understand how conflicted I feel, I would say.

It wasn’t just her either. It was my entire life that I was running away from. I had just spent an entire year bored. I accomplished virtually nothing and felt like I was moving backwards. I ruined my attention span. Every distraction was given my full and immediate attention until the next distraction grabbed me. I read nothing longer than a paragraph, concentrated on nothing for longer than 30 seconds. I indulged every whim except the one that said get out. In a word I was frustrated.

Saying farewell had been agony. The tearing apart of the final embrace was visceral; tears flowing like blood out of an open wound. I wondered if I was making the right decision. I needed to get out, didn’t I? Would leaving change anything? I stood on the side of the road, clutching my cardboard sign and tried to smile through tears at the oncoming motorists. The third car to pass me pulled over, I grabbed my bag and jumped in. The die was cast.

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