Breaking Up on the Road is Hard To Do
“How did you sleep last night?” asked the guest house owner, a bit more solicitous than when I had arrived the day before.
“Very well, thank you.”
“Oh, the boy, he changed rooms yesterday, so I wondered.”
Breaking up is hard to do, but on the road there is the added dimension of changing plans, avoiding each other in small towns, and not having friends around. The day after splitting from “the boy” who had been my travel companion, I spent several hours exploring the Citadel in Hue, Vietnam, seeing ruins of the Imperial Palace and enjoying near complete solitude in one of the restored temples that had no tourists in it. This is travel how I most enjoy it ï¿½ seeing something historical at my own pace. No rush, no compromise. I slowly wandered trails and courtyards and imagined the bustling days of the 1800s when important mandarins and concubines would have rushed around in full dress uniform, caught up in the political intrigues of their day.
Following through distant and still more distant gates, I explored sections that had almost no visitors, including Mieu Temple, a beautifully restored shrine to the Nguyen emperors. In one empty area, a Vietnamese family entered and the girls rapidly approached me. They were on an outing for Tet, the three-day lunar New Year holiday. The extended family group had one person who knew a little English, so we exchanged basic questions and answers. They were kind enough to offer me one of the brothers to take as a husband, which I had to decline with a smile.
After leaving the Citadel and sitting down to a meal, I realized that it would be nice to talk over the day’s events with someone, but my friend would not be around. The first day after a break-up is usually a bit strange or difficult, however one normally has a job or friends who step into the void. I would have to go out and make new friends before I could share my day or my plans.
Arriving back at my guesthouse, I asked the woman at the desk whether my laundry was ready. Of course it was, but more importantly, there was a soap opera brewing in her place and she was dying to know about it. All she knew so far was that a couple had arrived yesterday and taken a double room. A few hours later, the man had come down to request a separate room. Now he was booking transport out of town. What had happened?
“How are you? You look sad. What happened to the boy?”
I smiled slowly, not sure whether to spill the story or not. Seeing my reluctance, she knew it was time for serious action. She reached behind into a mini-fridge and pulled out a can.
“I invite you to a bird’s nest drink.”
“Is this a tea?”
“It’s a nutrition drink.”
What a thoughtful move, I was defenceless and would have to tell the details. I set down the laundry, started the drink, and then began the story at the beginning. There was a relationship a long time ago and now an attempt to travel together. This turned into a rekindling of sorts, except that contrasting expectations led to bad feelings and bad words. Although not a native English speaker, she clearly understood one of the oldest stories in the book ï¿½ what happens when love cannot bow to the realities of life and distance.
“Yes, very common problem.”
It was a good thing, having the mystery explained.
It was also a good thing to have nutrition and a conversation on the first day after.