Paths More Travelled

Entry by: erin strand

22nd September 2017
Paths Less Travelled

Her first great exploration was her own body. She had craving one day deep inside herself that she found only her hand could quash. Once she had started she couldn’t stop. She explored herself regularly in the outhouse buildings behind her parents ex farmhouse in southern France. During the endless summer holidays lying amongst the old piles of wood with the exquisite sun beaming down on her face, through the shattered weather beaten roof, mirroring the hot exquisite feeling she provoked in her own body. It was just the spiders, cobwebs and the silence.

She explored her body the minute she opened her eyes, surrounded by childhood fads she had outgrown - she was a woman now. She explored herself on freezing cold nights with the moon peeking through the nets forsaking dreams for sensations. She was like a foreign tourist in her own body exploring her landscape carefully and gingerly at first, then greedily and with confidence because now she knew the way. Her body then became like a favourite country that she kept returning to. Always excited to go there, the familiarity was comforting. Her hands were the compass and navigator.

It wasn’t planned when she strayed from her own island. She and her friends were drunk and in a bar that they weren’t old enough to be in. They got talking to some men.
She was fifteen and he was much older. He didn’t kiss her and he didn’t tell her he loved her. It was her first time she didn’t cry tears of romance but a little tear of pain. He left her to pull up her own skirt, amongst the bins and wooden gates in the lane. He left her with a bit of himself inside her and a longing for more. From that moment on exploring her own island felt pointless when she had the whole world to discover.

She sailed through college, then university taking every man she could. Some with different accents and different nationalities. Some of the views were good some were bad, some were big some were small- all were experiences. Each one she met was like reading a book. She couldn’t wait for the excitement of reaching the end except when she got there the excitement lasted as long as it took to turn a page. Just like a book when you finished it there was nothing left except a longing for more. The reading wasn’t entirely pointless though she took bits of information and learning from each then recycled and dispensed the knowledge at her will.

Faking orgasms was never a problem but love: that was a completely different matter. Faking love was hard and all the while she had restless feet. Some of the men she had met wanted to stop her sailing. They wanted her to be still and stop there. She just wanted to be ships passing in the night. She never wanted to stop and talk. They tried to anchor her. Then she let someone visit her island a little too much. She had always been the one that had gotten away but there was no getting away from him. So she tried to take a holiday from her travels and stay in one place, let another person onto her island, another person and only that person alone.

All the while she kept looking out at the endless sea and sky and wondered about the world. She felt like all she did was go round in circles on their island. All they ever did were see the same things, talk about the same things, watch the same things and just eat the same fish out of the same water. She soon felt she wasn’t sharing an island she were imprisoned on one. She wanted to swim away as fast as she could but he couldn’t let her go. She tried to let them drift apart but that didn’t work. One person’s happy island wasn’t necessarily someone else’s.

She was sorry but hungry for someone else. So she left him alone in the water. She had no idea he would drown himself. Sunken by rejection, heartbreak and spite. She felt like she never wanted to see him again and now she never would. Nobody would. He might not ever laugh again but he had definitely had the last laugh. Unlike most men he left her with something she would never forget - an unhappy accident. Whenever she swam with someone she made sure there were life jackets and rubber armbands but with him she must have gotten careless. Maybe the life jackets weren’t fastened right maybe one was torn maybe she let her guard down one night stuck on that desolate island just him and her.

This time there was something different inside her, growing by the day every day, for nine months. Now she was marooned again on her own private island all alone. Her feelings were conflicted. Now her needs and thoughts were for someone else. She worried also. Trying to travel with baggage was tricky. She would be anchored again only this time for the rest of her life. After much pondering she decided to give her baggage away. If you love something set it free but she set it free before she loved it. In case she loved it. She wasn’t the steadiest of ships. She knew there would always be the option to pull up the anchor and sail away regardless of who was on board. It was for the best.

She would always remember the pain and the smell of the hospital, the close foggy day. But she’d never remember it. It had been a him. She didn’t want to see it. She was scared her emotions might betray her. She was scared one look at him would trick her into thinking she could handle the responsibility. She gave her baggage away to someone who didn’t have baggage. Who couldn’t have baggage of their own. Someone who would take care of her baggage and love it unconditionally.
After that she told herself she wouldn’t travel so much. Then her body healed as quickly as her appetite. She threw herself into work and more men. Her 30’s and 40’s flew by. She climbed up her career ladder like she climbed onto men - quick and fast. She had everything she had ever wanted, not necessarily what everybody else wanted, but what she had wanted. She’d forgotten some of the countries she'd been to until she bumped into them again and got reminded. She gave a hasty apology and felt a rush of embarrassment.

Age! Slows! Everything! Her body had always felt like a vessel. First she was a speedboat, then a hovercraft, at her prime she felt like a cruise ship then a canoe going out occasionally on the water when she could. Then finally like a slow moving canal boat where she watched life pass her bye. Her travels got less frequent. She was determined to keep on sailing but the ship was getting old and the passengers were less eager and frequent. When she reached sixty her body had an apocalypse. The apocalypse every woman goes through. This time she was mooring up for good.

She tried different things different medications. It got better than it was but it wasn’t the same. An adventurous spirit was only as good as the legs that carried it, and her legs had gotten old. She got old. She reached a point where she realized there would be no more sightseeing. She didn’t have wooden carvings from Africa or bits of sand from mediterranean beaches shed walked on. She didn't have pebbles or shells she had collected from the four corners of the globe. She didn't have a lifetime of souvenir’s to surround her in her luxury apartment.
Instead she had memories and experiences. There were no children and grandchildren surrounding her deathbed but she was fine with that. Like some of the greatest travellers and explorers of all time she had travelled alone.