I sat in the stairwell of the hostel, listening to my sister cry on the other end of the telephone.
“Why don’t you want to be with me?” she asked. “Do you know how shitty that feels?”
It was December 2017. I was in Chefchaouen, Morocco, nestled in the Rif mountains. The bite of winter was encroaching. I was cold, and filled with self-loathing.
“There is some part of me that feels like it really needs to go see about this woman,” I said. “I can’t stop thinking about her.”
Five years of planning, interminable delays, and the trip my sister and I had planned to take together around Africa would never occur.
I had fallen in love.
The phone call ended without resolution.
She needed to do something, or I did. I sat on the stairs and felt a blackness in my heart. I was blazing a selfish path of destruction, I knew. I had burnt a hole in the middle of my oldest, strongest relationship — to go see about a person I’d known for only three days. Que romantico. ¿No?
I shot a message to a friend back home: I contribute nothing, M. My lifestyle is so selfish. I only hurt people. What’s wrong with me?
I felt lower than I had in a very long time, But I couldn’t stop. One has to follow one’s heart. No matter the risk, no matter the damage — love is the only force of meaning in this world.
Or so I thought.
This is youth, after all.
Wow! One year and 111 chapters later, I’m done with this project!! What a ride. Thanks everyone for coming along with me on this journey. I’ve appreciated each and every reader more than you can know. I’ll drop some more in-depth thoughts about the process and what’s next for me next week, but for now, just enjoy the closing chapter of this story.
And if you’re new here, I guess you can read the whole story now, start to finish, right here.
I awoke early on my final day in Nepal.
Some animal instinct warned me of impending change.
Sunlight was streaming onto my pallet-like bed in my room at the Annapurna Guesthouse. Dust shimmered in the sunbeam, leading the air an ethereal solidity. It looked like I could reach across the room and pluck the sunbeam straight out of the sky. It was a strangely beautiful sight.
Dust was inescapable in this city. Already, after only two days back in Kathmandu, my cough had come back. It would linger with me long after I returned home, a half-welcome reminder the damages wandering could inflict on a person.
“Are you okay?”
These are not words one wants to hear in the middle of a job interview.
And yet, that was exactly what the Austrian woman asked me, halfway through my interview. “Are you okay?”
The answer was obviously no, anyone but I could have seen that.
But I said yes. Everything was fine. I was good.
I would not get the job in Austria.
The diplomat’s daughter smiled at me a bit too long.
She laughed a bit too loud and talked a bit too fast when I was around.
She was the only woman on this trek anywhere near my age — Sol and the rest of the masses had turned towards home after Poon Hill, while we worked over towards Suile, and the most beautiful moment of my life.
As we made our way up the valley towards Annapurna Base Camp, my cast of recurring characters had narrowed to no more than a dozen. I was beginning to get to know them all, as we struggled upwards, in mutual agony and awe.