There's a passport tucked away in a drawer at my house, probably coated with a thin sheet of dust from having not been moved since I used it the one time, two (three?) years ago. The photo of me on the inside front cover, with long hair and long earrings, is dated already, but it's legal. That passport has been dying for a stamp on one of its blank pages. Or, at the very least, it longs for a change of scenery. It's getting bored just sitting there, surrounded by old sunglasses and matchbooks from various hotels. Its pages need to breathe. But it knows that I have little occasion to travel, that my vacations rarely take me beyond U.S. borders. It knows that, but it's been holding out hope that one day, it would get to rest in my pocket and hop a flight to someplace exotic.
In April, it might.
I have instructions, though. That lonely passport of mine can be accompanied by no more than a backpack worth of items. A few pairs of pants. Shorts. T-shirts. A sweater. Shoes. Light items that won't weigh me down. Bathing suits. No makeup. (Although I cannot guarantee that an item or two from my makeup bag won't make it into that backpack.) The idea of traveling that way is so utterly foreign to me, so completely delicious in its mystery. I favor decent hotels with bars in the lobby, plush mattresses and in-room coffee makers. I prefer to bring too many clothes, too many shoes; Enough luggage to last me at least twice as long as necessary. And, oh, the makeup I bring. So I have to admit, doing something so completely out of character for me - like backpacking - is exciting. But not just exciting in theory, exciting like I can't wait.
And I have options. "Like, South Africa," he said, sitting up in bed, "cage diving with sharks." I curled my eyelashes and considered it. Me - With my Chanel bag full of makeup, with my five pairs of black high-heels lined up like soldiers in the closet. With my hair products and sensitive skin - in a cage? With a diving mask on? And sharks? Just thinking about it gets my adrenaline flowing. I imagine the temperature of travel, the taste of the water, the shock of submerging. I try to fathom what it would be like to see a huge sea creature with row after row of teeth, right there in front of me. Like the Discovery Channel, but right there. Close enough to touch. "Would I have to go alone?" I asked. "I don't know," he said, shrugging his shoulders, his tone non-committal. "Hmm." I brushed mascara onto my curled lashes, thinking that I'd rather he be with me, for moral support. To share the experience. To take the edge off of the fear. "To be honest," I said, getting up to put on my clothes, "the shark isn't the scary part for me. It's the diving mask part that gets me." I put my hand over my mouth and nose to illustrate the mask. "I'm more freaked out about the forced air and controlled breathing than I am about the sharks."
"There's also Belize," he said later, getting up to take his shower. "Or the Maldives. We could lay around on beaches. SCUBA." He thought for a minute, a world's worth of possibilities. "We need a globe," he said, leaving the room. He pulled the door closed behind him, leaving me in the bedroom, alone with the possibilities. And the excitement.
He had given me a verbal list of things that he takes with him when he travels every year. Possible travel destinations, possible excursions. Adventure. I evaluated it all while I pulled on my shoes, my mind spinning with the promise of something completely different.
I had given up the notion of traveling with him, even though he'd asked, because it just hadn't come up since. But here were, at 7:00 in the morning, discussing where we might go. And better, he sounded like he actually wanted me to go with him. It wasn't a matter of asking just for the sake of asking, it felt like a genuine desire to have me go along for the ride.
I've never done something like that: Strapped on a backpack and whatever light items I can fit into it and meandered around a country. I've never even really gone to another country. It's scary, to me. I mean, really, it's another country with a different language and nothing but a bunch of strangers. But I feel so safe with Billy, sure that he'd never lead me into a situation that I couldn't handle, but still willing to challenge me and push me beyond my comfort zone of Wyndam Hotels and Estee Lauder Equalizer foundation. He knows, I'm sure, that traveling outside of America is something I've wanted to do, just didn't have the guts to go after myself. I love that about him. That he challenges me, but gently. He'll push me, but he'll hold my hand at the same time. I love that he wants me to have this experience. I love even more that he wants me to be part of his experience this year.
No longer is my choice to go with him on this trip weighed down with confusion. Does he really want me to go? Should I give him that time alone? Do I want to go, or show him that he can leave and I'll be fine with it? As usual, I've just been reading too far into everything I do, everything he says. He invited me, he wants me to be with him. He'll still have two or three weeks of vacation to be by himself. It's an amazing opportunity to travel and to be with him...And I want to go.
As for right now, I have to write "a short story about a prissy girl who backpacks in some foreign country, who finds herself maybe in Cape Town, South Africa cage diving with sharks, and how she feels about that." It's my writing assignment from my beloved traveling boyfriend. I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that the "prissy girl" in the story will feel pretty spectacular, regardless of where she goes or what she does there.