Tuesday, August 10, 2004


Meg found Joel's ideas of fun honorable but outdated, and seeming to include an excess of walking. He had read all the travel books and then read them again, this time aloud and to her, selected passages meant to impart the sheer beauty of the country, beauty being a word not used lightly and something this world has little of, is losing rapidly, is hiding from view on remote islands thousands of miles away. Joel thought that the only way to see this beauty was to walk through it. To suffer through it. He believed pleasure had a cost.

So she went with him, because she believed she loved him.

But secretly Meg hoped that some accident would occur on the hike or that the immense physical exertion would cause a decipherable rift between them, a small rift, surmountable, some trivial calamity that she could blame on his arrogance. She wanted this because although she thought she loved Joel, she did not trust him. And it would be nice, she thought, to finally have an opportunity to tell hiim that one of his ideas was stupid, that it didn't work out the way he thought it would, that he should listen to her more often, that sitting at the beach and drinking was just as nice or maybe even better because there, people didn't get hurt. They didn't twist ankles and they didn't fight.

Meg had a litany of things she wanted to say to Joel but could never articulate, and when finally she ever summoned the courage to confront him, these rehearsed speeches failed her, the clarity of her dissent dissipating into a fog of frustration and resignation. During these moments she would sit quietly, trying earnestly not to cry, her mind racing with horrible things to say to him, things that would let Joel know how strong she really was and how little she depended on him. It was her failure to remember what to say exactly that made her sullen, the words in her head fidgety, restless, refusing to re-align long enough for a coherent thought to escape. Meg tried to put up a good front. She thought that if Joel knew what she feared, that she was going crazy, it would confirm in him the suspicions she had about herself, that she was timid and unstable. As the trip progressed, she talked less and less. Joel interpreted this quiet sorrow as a response to something he had done, or perhaps homesickness. He did not mind the long silences, though, and the two slowly became comfortable in their hushed sadness, more comfortable than they had been before the trip, just two lonely Americans studying in London, then always making small talk about films and music, always keeping the conversation going, always affirming the profundity and validity of the other's comments.

It was in this tenuous state of suspicion and confusion which, when love is very strong in young people, seems always to mature faster than the lovers themselves, that Joel and Meg found a rhythm to each other's discomforts and settled into a way of reacting and responding to each other. And it was during this time of stability and insecurity, of desire and disgust, of this strange lovely grief they wore like a shawl that, in the second week of December, they set out together, alone, unprotected from each other, on their hike.

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