Meet He, meet She. Both are travelers, and both like to think that they are independent travelers, as if the social element of human nature is something one can deny. What He really means by it is that He prefers to be a single traveler on some trips if that can bring him closer to the local population of an interesting country. He wants to learn things that haven't been written in the books (yet). What She really means is that She wants to come across as an independent woman, taking on the world by herself. But what He thinks that She means, and what She thinks that He means, is that the other person does not want to travel together. The longing, the desire, the comradeship, both feel it, yet both ignore it.
But this is not entirely true. She had written it to him a few months earlier, when it was safe to do so, each being on the other side of an ocean. He had answered that the connection that She felt was mutual. As luck would have it a few months later, an unexpected opportunity arose when it turned out that the Floridan amusement park where She worked had a work permit to give away to a foreigner for a position that could not be filled by an American. While He resided in Europe, she asked whether He was up for this new adventure, and He answered within ten seconds that He would love to come over to the United States.
On the day that He arrived, She awaited him at the amusement park's entrance. They were happy to see each other again after seven months, but it was late in the evening and so they would see each other in the morning. He would spend the night in one of the hotels in town, and She would go home to her own place. How mature of her, He thought, to not immediately ignite rumors. Gossip can be such a bitch, especially when you're new at a work place. The next day She took him around town, showing him where the library, the post office, the main bars and the bank were. It was a nice walk, too, along the river, and through the park. It was, all in all, pretty romantic.
She said, 'I'm going to hike up a hill this afternoon with a friend of mine. We're gonna meet at 3:30, so you can join us if you like after you've settled in to your staff accom.'
A friend on their first day together since seven months?! They'd known each other for nineteen months. She had been in a relationship, engaged even, He had been a traveler, this was their first day where these restrictive circumstances did not apply. According to his own experience, women only brought a friend along for three reasons: She wanted to take things slow, She wanted a second opinion, She wanted an escape route. Oh, how handy a friend could come in!
But an escape route and a second opinion... Hell, She knew him! She wanted to take things slow, then? Was that friend the brake pedal here? Perhaps. Secretly, He was terrified of commitments such as relationships. The thought to be tied down, to be placed in a spot where a mortgage, children, a career and all those things were expected of him, that gave him the creeps. But She had seemed different. And He had mentally prepared himself for a relationship. Things could go from here now. They would, after the American experience, travel the world, be buddies, and if She ever felt a desire to go somewhere alone, He would gladly let her do her thing, and vice versa.
But now She was going to hike up a hill with a friend. He said, 'No, you guys can go. I'm tired from the jetlag.' And the idea of that relationship faded away as if it had never existed. It was still there, in the back of his mind, but She clearly wanted to take things slow. Or perhaps She had started to second-guess this whole thing now that He was here...
She thought, Seriously? Where is the traveler spirit in this guy? If they were going to be together in this place, He would need a social life. And what was a better way of starting out than with her own social circle here in town? Surely, these were all women, but these women had boyfriends, and the boyfriends could all go hang out together, giving their ladies a break. They could go have a few beers together and, when the weekend came around, they could go have a barbecue party together in the park. And they would invite the girls, and they would all be together, and then split up after a great night, and be a drunk couple on their way home. But perhaps this was the independence that He had been talking about? They'd had endless conversations about traveling, how great it was to be that individual who had slipped away from expectations from society, and only meet your own desires. So may be He just didn't want to indulge himself in her circle of friends just yet. May be He wanted things to grow, to collide his desire of independence with a new reality in which He had a companion?
While She was hiking up the hill with her friend, He sat by himself in his apartment, which was the amusement park's staff accommodation. He was glad that He hadn't allowed the friend to become a chaperone.
It was the start of a weird period. They were colleagues at the amusement park, often replaced each other as the roller coaster operator, and only occasionally would they undertake something together as friends. If ever, they usually went out to have a beer together, during which She would talk about George Clooney. How handsome he was, that She would never get married unless it was with George. He never liked hearing this. It felt like a rejection. But She knew what She was doing. He didn't seem to be that in to her. Nothing ever happened, unless She asked him out for a drink. She was hoping to trigger a conversation in which He would at last name a celeb which he idolized. Idolatry was a great way to find out where the other person's sexual desires were hidden.
Eva Green. No doubt. But He knew it would make her insecure if He said so. No girl in this town could beat Eva Green, just like no guy in this town could apparently beat George Clooney. Conversations while having a beer were always about traveling, George, and that one kid they both knew She would never want to shag because his legs were so thin. These were, come to think about it, the most awkward of conversations, and always about the same subjects.
She had tried to find out what his travel plans were, but for the first time ever since She met him, He'd had no travel plans. She did. She always did. Costa Rica. Nicaragua. Brazil. Chile. Peru. Oh, Peru, her dream destination! Backpack in tow, nothing to worry about, being in awe with all these beautiful people. The world was her playground, traveling was her game.
He had no travel plans because He had just arrived in a new country and had no money to plan short-term trips. Traveling had left him nearly broke, and with the low wages in Florida and high cost of living, it was going to take a while to recover financially from a few awesome adventures. And there was also the practical aspect: those lousy American employment contracts only allowed ten days per calendar year off. Would He need more, say, for a backpacking trip in Peru, or Nicaragua, then He would have to quit his job, and that would be the end of the work permit, and that, of course, would be the end of his stay in America.
And so nothing happened for a while. Well, She went on holiday to Central America, on an all-female jungle trekking tour, and He had noticed how quick She had been to emphasize the "all-female" part. He could not come, even if He'd have had the money. And that was fine. They were independent travelers, were they not? She was a single woman, was She not? He was not in a position to go there anyway, or was He now?
But one night She invited him for a movie night at her place. He thought, Is She making the move? But He had his doubts. Last time, when they went to see a movie at the cinema, her friend suddenly rocked up. He had excused himself after the movie for the girls to have a few drinks without him. No chaperones, thank you. But to his surprise, this time round, they were just with the two of them. He had brought a bottle of red wine. She had taken care of a bunch of DVD's to pick from. It was going to be awesome.
Upon entering her apartment, He saw a picture of George Clooney on her wall.
'Still dreaming of good old George, I see?'
'The one and only. Have you seen that Norwegian commercial in which he has picked up a girl at the bar, and they decide to get married the next morning? Here, I'll show you.' And She showed the commercial on her laptop. 'Any girl wants to be that chick in the commercial.'
The idea of sitting together got abandoned after seeing this commercial, the rejection was right in his face. They sat separately on her couch. She felt comfortable, sipping from her wine while the movie played, and She thought about her upcoming trip to Nicaragua, where her friend had a house that She could use for free. He could come with her, oh, if only! What held him back? What was it... Geez, even now! Look at him, sitting in that corner, focused on that movie. Hello! Do I even exist to you? This was ridiculous.
At midnight, when the bottle of wine was empty and the movie was over, He said, 'I'm really tired.'
'Didn't you sleep after your morning shift?' She asked. He always made up that excuse, it seemed. Hiking up the hill never happened because He had a "jetlag", after the movie at the cinema He had excused himself because He had been "too tired", and now, just when She thought She had him cornered, He was tired again!
He said, 'Not too much. The daylight through the curtains keeps waking me up.'
She came up with a brilliant idea. 'Do you want to crash here, then?'
'That would be awesome. Thank you.'
They went to the bedroom and got in their underwear. He could smell that the bed linen had been washed. They smelled nice and clean. And He fell asleep before She had even joined him. She looked at him and thought, Is He faking to be asleep, or is He really that tired? Oh well, I guess morning shifts are hell to work. She always operated the roller coaster in the afternoon, because She'd been smarter than He had been by negotiating her roster during her interview. And look at him now!
While She slept, He woke up a couple of times. It was strange for him to lay next to a colleague he had known for nearly two years by now. They clearly were more than just colleagues, though. Good friends? It wasn't hard to figure out why She had allowed him to sleep here. Intercourse. Was intercourse for her the confirmation that they were finally in that relationship? Was She actually in love? Where had been the eye contact that established the chemistry, the smile, the hand-holding, the freakin' sparks that were supposed to fly between the two of them? None of that had ever been there. Was it really just a matter of penis-in-vagina, enjoying the orgasm, and rings could be exchanged?
While He slept, She woke up a couple of times. It was a strange accomplishment to have him here, and why had it taken so long? Months! No guy would crawl into a girl's bed just to sleep. Surely, He would set her on fire in the morning. A girl wants a relationship, a guy wants sex. They can achieve their own desire by providing the opposite sex with each of these. And She had made sure that He would not feel tied down. Gosh, She had even paid a fortune to go on holiday by herself to that jungle trekking tour in Central America to prove that She was an independent woman who would never be that claiming female He feared so much! "All-female"! Ha! And He didn't even question the fact that there were male tour guides...
While She slept, He woke up a couple of times. She was cute. And for the first time in a very long time, He felt "homey". It was a strange feeling. Normally, He had always felt right at home in the desert, in a hammock, in a tent. Chick for the night, sure, but not for a second night. And yet, here He could live for a while. He could return to this bed the following night. Even for a third if She'd let him. But then suddenly She would be off to South-America, of course, and He would miss having her in this bed for months on end. That He wanted to avoid. George would, too.
While He slept, She woke up a couple of times. His presence was comforting. No longer alone since the end of the other relationship. She had no regrets about her time with the other guy, just needed to move on now. It felt as though it was happening. If this would work out, She needed to make sure that She kept up her image as a strong, independent woman. How long would She have to be by herself to keep feeding him that idea? Three months per year? That house in Nicaragua was going to come in handy. But what if He wanted to come along? Where would She go then? Perhaps She could persuade him to travel, instead... Oh, why did this have to be so complicated? And she thought, How is this ever going to WORK?
In the morning, they awoke to her alarm clock. There was little time left and She knew it was never going to happen. He had to take a shower, put on his clothes, eat breakfast, and then be off to go operate the roller coaster. All in thirty minutes time. He got up, She watched him walk to the door. In the shower He thought of a good way out. She hadn't laid a finger on him. She was too complicated. His musings had kept him awake. He was tired. Yet, He was happy that He could now come to a conclusion. Two travelers can't enter into a relationship. They just can't.
The longing, the desire, the comradeship, both continued to feel it, yet both continued to ignore it. And they kept traveling alone, and independent from other people, each in their own pursuit of happiness.