“First best is falling in love. Second best is being in love. Least best is falling out of love. But any of it is better than never having been in love.”-Maya Angelou
My relationship with Hayma lasted for four more days once she slipped out of that Melbourne café. Then everything fell apart.
It was a rainy Friday morning and I had just strategically folded my underwear and wedged them into the top right corner of my trusty duffel bag. I was just about to put the final touches on my normal packing routine and head to the bus station when a long text from Thailand came through.
Our texts up until that point had been relatively playful and short. I’d call her my lil cous cous because it’s the only thing I could think of that’s also Moroccan and we’d fill each other in on how our day was going whenever we both had Wi-Fi. When she told me about the scorpion she ate on Koh San Road the day after she got there I told her I’d never kiss her again. I was kidding of course.
Regardless of what we were talking about we’d always end each string of texts with the same smiling emoji, the one with the little red hearts for eyes. So when I saw how long her text was, my heart sank before ever reading it. I knew what was coming.
I knew she had given into her fears and decided not to follow her heart.
She delicately listed out all the reasons why we can’t be together. She said that after a lot of thinking on her long bus ride from Bangkok to Chang Mai that she hadn’t been thinking things through and that she just went with the flow in Melbourne because it felt so good at the time. And that things just went way too fast and that it usually takes her years to develop such deep relationships with anyone, even her closest friends.
She also said that she has no clue what she really wants and that it’s not fair to me to try and build something together when she really needs to be figuring her own self out first. That she’s so confused that even the crossroads have crossroads. She also sited the distance and how impossible that would be. And then finally she got to the one thing that I knew would eventually be our unraveling.
She said that I’m not a Muslim and just how complex of an issue that is for her.
She ended the text by saying how much she likes me and that it’s just all too overwhelming at the present moment, but that she wants to keep in touch.
Even though things were magical and beyond perfect when she was here in Melbourne with me, I’d be lying if I didn’t half expect this kind of text from her one day. Back in that café a few days ago when I brought up the idea of coming to Amsterdam to see her one day, she looked hesitant, “I am not sure how comfortable I would be introducing you to the people I know, they might not be open to the idea of us hanging out together.”
Once she said that she wasn’t sure about introducing me to the people in her life, I knew it was over. I knew that if she couldn’t even picture that, that the idea of us had no real chance.
There’s a certain freedom found when traveling, especially backpacking the way she is, but I knew that when she got a quiet moment alone to sit and think about us, that she’d inevitably picture her normal life back in Amsterdam, and that no matter how many angles she looked at that life from, that I just wouldn’t fit. I was always going to be the square peg.
To be fair to her, this is exactly what I do; this is so typical of me. Now I can unequivocally say that I’ve never met anyone like Hayma, but I’m known for falling in love fast, throwing all my logs onto the fire without thinking.
In fact, I’ll tell you what happened the last time I was in this very city five years ago. Something so identical that it’s eerie.
I was in the midst of my three-month leave of absence from my old corporate job and I was feeling a similar blissful balance back then. I had flown from Bali to Melbourne on a whim one day and I was out bar hopping with some friends I’d just met. When my eyes locked with this stunning woman named Tina it was then that I first realized that the world actually had the capacity to stop. Her mysterious dark features were a mix of Spanish, South African and Australian and she was without question the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.
Tina was perfect in so many ways, she was a flight attendant that loved to travel and as we got to know one another over the course of the night, everything just clicked. We both fell for one another and she promised to take a few weeks off of work to travel the rest of the way around the world with me. She even insisted on locking pinkies and swearing that we would do the Great White Shark cage dive together when we got to South Africa. We put a bow on the whole evening with a knee-buckling kiss underneath a dimly lit street lamp; the whole thing was a scene out of a black and white Carry Grant movie. I watched her every move as she walked away and faded into the Melbourne night, and at the time I had no idea that that kiss would not only be our first, but also our last.
I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep that night and I emailed her the second I got back to my hotel, then again, and again. By around 5PM the next day, the feeling started setting in that I was never going to hear from her again, which is exactly what happened.
Ever since that life-changing three-month trip around the world, I created this meditation-like routine that I do. During a small part of that routine I picture what I want in my mind’s eye and then feel the feelings in my heart of whatever that thing is that I want. It’s something Louise (the clairvoyant) taught me that’s loosely based on the law of attraction. She would always say all the power comes from within. So when I get to the part of my meditation where I want to create love, I’ve always used Tina as a signpost. I picture her in my mind’s eye and then tap into the feelings I felt on that dimly lit street corner in Melbourne.
When my eyes locked with Hayma in front of Flinders Street Station seven days ago, ironically, or maybe not so ironically, it was only a few blocks away from where that fateful kiss with Tina happened.
My mind had projected Tina and my heart had felt her so many times over the past five years that I was bound to manifest something similar once I got back here. The amazing thing about it though was that my connection with Hayma was exponentially greater than the one I had with Tina.
But then again, maybe it’s something else entirely. Maybe Hayma’s just playing a character that I invented. Maybe she’s Santiago’s Fatima and not my Fatima. And that no matter how much I want to turn metal into gold, I’ll never become the Alchemist. That book is fictional anyway. It’s entirely possible that she was auditioning for a character I created, one that my mind desperately wanted to box her into, but now that she’s gone off script I find myself standing here wondering why. But, wow, what a three days it was. We had such a great time together in Melbourne. I was dizzy with ecstasy and even if it was a character my mind concocted or a meditation manifested, it was better than anything I’d ever imagined.
We created our own cocoon, but in doing so, I did what I always do. I forgot to measure the risks or take a real look at the obstacles. I was overly optimistic and I just assumed that we were on the brink of a love so deep that we’d glide past everything thrown our way. The truth is, her being Muslim is a serious thing and I never took it into account the way that I should have.
I grew up Christian, have a Hindu tattoo, and spent an equal amount of time in mosques and synagogues over the past few years, but at the moment I don’t consider myself anything. If anything, I’m a little bit of everything. When I initially read Hayma’s text this morning the thought of converting to Islam did cross my mind, but what would I even be converting from?
If anything, it feels like I have a direct line to God now and that a religion, any religion, would only get in the way of that.
Throughout the course of my journey I’ve grown to trust God, like really trust him. While I’m heartbroken over the fact that Hayma doesn’t want to be with me, I’m also able to find some sort of peace with it. Like I said before, everything happens for a good reason, even the bad. While on the surface this is bad, awful in fact, I don’t know what’s happening below the surface. I can’t see all the gears turning, levers being pulled and other doors opening behind the scenes. I’ve learned to put all my faith in the process because I don’t know what kind of breakthrough this will eventually lead to.
Knowing all of this doesn’t make much difference in the moment. As humans, what we can handle intellectually far outweighs what we can handle emotionally. I’m still human and heartbreak will always be heartbreak. Reading her text was far harder than I ever thought it would be. I desperately wanted to be with her.
By the time the bus gets on the M31 North and steadies itself towards Canberra, the yearning to return to the cocoon we created in Melbourne floods my body. It’s a swell of emotions that pushes tears right up against the rim of my eyes. Even if only for a few days, I had it all. I was creating, taking photos, making films, writing stories, traveling, making money and falling fast in love. And damn, it was good.
But coming down from the highest of highs isn’t easy.
As I look out the window and the smoke stacks on Melbourne’s west side slowly fade out of view I feel myself begin to fall apart. No matter how I look at it, I just wasn’t enough for her.
When there’s nothing to look at besides another seemingly endless stretch of barren highway, a tear trickles out of my eye. I look over at the woman that’s sitting in the row of seats across from me to see if she notices. She’s wearing a blue and white striped shirt and her head is buried in a book. I wipe the tear from my cheek and then I turn my head sideways so I can see what she’s reading. As the cover comes into focus I read the title to myself, Trusting God through Tears.