You keep moving because you have to. You can’t stop to think about the call you received in the beautiful hostel in Otavalo. Ten dollars a night to sleep in a gorgeous wooden hacienda with beds to sink in. Plush chairs hang from the ceilings, and a small indigenous woman, wearing a white Mexacali blouse serves you fresh fruit and muesli for breakfast.
It is outrageous to be receiving such a call in such a place, especially after a 20 hour bus-ride. To be smacked in the face with unhappiness seems indecent.
But this is the life you do not talk about; the one with ill parents and a dying Grandfather. You don’t discuss the night you drank an entire bottle of wine and coughed until you puked in Medellin after the four hour conversation with your Aunt. You can’t explain to your new friends what happened in the past, why you can’t return, despite the fact that the world would probably send you back if they knew the truth of what was going on at home.
The morning after you find out your Grandfather is going into hospice care you hike up and around a stunning lake in the picturesque Andean countryside where rolling green mountains make you want to sing the Sound of Music, and so you do because this moment is your reality now.
Does it make what you can’t return to ache less? Does it make you less guilty for being able to be where you are? Does it make you understand why when your life, your own personal life, is unfolding your family’s is falling apart?
No. And you want to dump the contents of yourself out to your new friends, the entire story of your life so they’ll understand why you can’t return, but you know that’s just inappropriate.
So you think, “breathe, breathe,” as your pounding heart reacts to the 3,000 meters above sea-level and the ache in your legs starts to feel good.
Because what’s behind you, or existing with you, doesn’t take away from each and every encounter, friend and wondrous moment that is going on presently. And each and every momentous moment doesn’t lessen the pain; it’s just there.
So the two co-exist and sit with each other. They stand with while you gaze upon the stately, colonial Churches of Ecuador, they are with you while you Salsa in Quito, and both joy and guilt cradle you in the hostel that smells like a molded cat.
It is in this hostel when you receive the email from your Father asking for your return, ”how can you stay away?” he writes ”if you do not understand then I have done a terrible job raising and my life does not mean much anymore.”
You want him to understand all the things he can’t, you want things that you will never get, so as gently and kindly as you can you say that returning won’t fix or change anything because that’s the truth as well.
Before you lays Montanita, Cueno and the border crossing to Peru; before you lays the life of happiness that you’ve never stopped trying to weave for yourself, and you know, as you look at the fading past, and the dying present, only you can make this world for yourself.
That there is little mercy; that the tin shacks that sit on the rivers of Colombia still collapse in storms and that your little life is nothing to the mountains.