The last two months have been crazy. Since I left India, I have seen so much of the world.
I started my adventures in China. I felt the burn of my calves as I walked part of the Great Wall and tasted food so delicious that my mouth was watering weeks later remembering it. The blue of the waters the Peacock Riverbed in Jiuzhai Valley reminded me of the skirt Meera wore the first night we met. I smiled at the memory and moved on to the waterfalls in the park, their thundering sounds nearly too much for my own thoughts to bother me.
I went to Tokyo next. The parks they have were amazing, there were zoos that are in them as well as lakes where people use paddle boats. I saw the sunrise from Mount Fiji and it was breathtaking. From my hotel, I walked to Yoyogi Park and later toured the Hamarikyu Gardens. It was such a busy city, and I was ready for a quieter stop next.
In Italy, I explored Mount Vesuvius, and later toured the ruins of Pompeii. It was humbling to stand in the excavated walkways of the ancient city and face Vesuvius. A shiver went down my back as I thought of the thousands that perished when the great volcano erupted.
I took a ferry tour around the Isle of Capri and remained frozen on the side of the ship as it circled the area. It was beautiful to see the island rising out of the ocean in front of me. I opted not to take the gondola ride to the top of the island, but enjoyed the scenery from below just as much.
I went to Alaska, and bundling against the cold that seeped into my very bones, I saw the aurora borealis. Shivering violently, I watched the haunting blues and greens of the northern lights dancing in the crisp air with only the snowy surface to reflect it. During the day, I saw animals and birds I never imagined could have existed. I was overwhelmed when I saw my first moose; there was something oddly adorable about the long-legged animals, but the sheer size of these brown animals was awe-inspiring. I couldn’t help but grin as one looked up from the bog where it was eating. The water draining from its mouth dripped off the vegetation hanging down as it munched contentedly. I focused my camera carefully, hoping to capture the sheer size to show… to show…
I shook my head, forcing her name from my mind, and turned back to the car that would take me to the airport.
I went to New York City because it was called the ‘Gateway to the World.’ The city was so busy, and it stayed open all night. Even in the early morning hours, cars were rushing by and during the day, the people were in such a hurry that they forget how to live all together. It was so bright with all the city lights there, that you cannot see the stars. There were just dark skies, there was no beauty of what I knew was hidden beyond the neon lights that formed a visual umbrella, lighting up and masking way too much.
I went to Battery Park and bought ticket to take a cruise to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. I enjoyed walking around Ellis Island, standing in the same place where more than 12 million immigrants passed through to live in America. At the Statue of Liberty, I trekked up the 377 steps from the pedestal to the crown. What a beautiful view!I thought, as I gasped for breath at the top of the stairs.
I splurged on a Broadway show and later visited Rockefeller Center. I could imagine the large Christmas tree in the winter. No matter where I went though, I felt like I was jostled by the throngs of people.
Meera would be too overwhelmed here, I thought, as I booked my next flight.
A quick flight later, I was in front of another thunderous spill of water; this one Niagara Falls. I walked out on the Prospect Point Observation Tower. As dusk fell, I sat on the cold concrete and hungrily watched the multi colored lights illuminated the rushing water.
The next morning, I donned a plastic blue poncho and took a ride on one of the small boats in that skitters up Niagara River to the bottom of the falls.
I felt the powerful engines fighting the currents in the river as we inched up to the falls. The roar was deafening, but I couldn’t hide the laugh of exhilaration I felt as the spray from the falls coated my face. The monsoons of India brought such a relief, but the force of the falls with the light, insistent spray was exhilarating. I watched several couples cuddling on the short voyage, their transparent blue hoods pressed together as they kissed or tried to make themselves heard over the roar.
I went to the Grand Canyon next. I wanted to see if it was as truly beautiful as I expected to be.
Truly, any photo could not do the view justice. It was awe-inspiring to see such an enormous cavern in the earth. I took a donkey ride to the bottom, loving each jostle as the donkey’s nimble feet picked our way down the steep paths.
Returning to the top again, it was nearly sunset and the view took my breath away. It was as if a small child found his mother’s painting palate and mischievously slashed all different shades across a canvas.
Back on the east coast, I decided to spend a few days in Boston. After NYC, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the press of people there, but I was drawn to the rich history of the area. It was one of America’s birth cities, and I looked forward to learning a little more about the culture.
I decided to take the subway to the Boston Common, a large park in the middle of the town. The subway was very confusing, but I found some helpful college kids who helped me navigate through the different colors and lines. Still, I was happy to emerge from the subway and stepped out onto Tremont Street, at the edge of the common.
There were people milling about, but it wasn’t overwhelming as I had witnessed before. In fact, everyone seemed very friendly. There were college kids lounging in the sunny grass, and people playing Frisbee. Walking by a playground, I stopped to watch an old man making balloon characters for the kids and laughed when he handed me a green dog. As I was leaving, a little girl popped her balloon and started wailing. I gave her my dog and was rewarded with a huge hug. I laughed. She smelled like apples.
I crossed the Atlantic on a red-eye flight, making my way to Spain. In Leon, I toured some of their breathtaking cathedrals. The paintings in the Basilica de San Isidoro were almost overwhelming and fleetingly, I wished I could speak with someone to get another impression on the medieval artwork. The next day, I pulled on a sturdy pair of hiking boots and started out on the Camino de Santiago. I knew I would only spend a few days on the famous pilgrimage path, but I walked during the days, taking in the beautiful wheat-swept fields during the day. One evening, I impulsively decided to sleep outside instead of taking shelter in a hostel, and woke up shivering violently as the dew settled on my inadequate blanket.
Finally, I sat in the Promenade Plantéea Park in Paris with an evening picnic of crusty bread and cantel cheese as I watched one of the most beautiful sunsets since I began my journey. It looked like the sun was bursting into the colors of fire and then fading into pinks, blues, and purples.
By far, Paris was one of my favorite places to visit. On a particularly warm day, I opted to tour the catacombs. The dreary underground burial chambers may have seemed macabre to some people, but I loved walking along the tunnels, knowing that I was in a location where nearly six million people were buried.
Back above ground, I played tourist, taking the long elevator to the Eiffel Tower. As the first elevator travelled the 115 meters up to the first and second floors, I felt my hand reaching out in excitement, only to realize I was reaching for air. Not finding a hand to hold, I was absorbed in sadness for a moment.
But then the elevator reached its destination and I got out. The view was magnificent, and being a long traveler, I was able to secure a small window table in Le 58 tour Eiffel, devouring a wonderful sandwich as I took in the scenery.
At the top of the second elevator, the view was breathtaking. It was odd; even though I was looking in the same direction, the vista seemed to expand the higher I went. Touring Gustave Eiffel’s office, I felt like anything was possible.
I loved touring all the different churches and cathedrals. Notre Dame lived up to its reputation for grandeur, and I was able to hear Emmanual, the cathedral’s 13-ton bell.
Of course, the museums were interesting, but I always found them too crowded for my tastes. I didn’t like to feel like a tourist.
But the parks… oh the parks. I was drawn to them, craving their wide, green spaces. Parc Monceau was one of my favorites. The layout was so random… a colonnade here, a miniature pyramid there. Then there is the Chinese fort and a windmill! The park was such a fun place to explore.
I was not done travelling yet, though. There were more places I was desperate to explore. My plane landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia and I rented a car. I heard people refer to parts of Cape Breton Island as the edge of the world. I wanted to see it before I returned to India. Later in the day, I crossed the swing bridge over the Canso Causeway and arrived on the island, smiling as the fog drifted around me.
The following day, I teetered on the edge of the cliff of a campground at Meat Cove, watching the surf pummel the boulders below me. The sunshine was comforting on my back, its rays wrapping over my shoulders.
The air around me was void of human voices and any mechanical sounds. Here, at the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, I truly felt as if I was at the edge of the world. I look to my left, taking in the gentle slope that curves out of sight. It looked peaceful, but I knew the perception was false, and that the land abruptly fell off into the cold waters below. To my right, there was a small beach, dwarfed by threatening boulders above it. While the tiny area looked peaceful, the boulders peppering on the sand proved how treacherous the area was.
I was truly perched on the edge of the world.
I throw my head back until the sun at my back heats my upturned face. How long have I been running? I ask myself, finally giving life to the spark of loneliness that has been threatening to ignite. My mind combs over the last moments with Meera. If I closed my eyes, I could feel her lips gently brushing the tender spot behind my earlobe. Absently, my hand reached up to touch that very spot, but my touch brought no satisfaction. I needed her; I needed that beautiful, brown-eyed creature that I threw away.
At moments like this, I wondered if I made a mistake in leaving Meera. My chin dropped to my chest in defeat. All this travelling, all the breathtaking sights I’ve seen have been worthless alone. “Seeing the world,” I muttered, my voice foreign in my ears. “For nothing! I’ve been such a coward, running… for what? And from what?”
Absently, I threaded my fingers through the grass beside me, imaging the blades were Meera’s fingers. Willing her beside me. How selfish I’ve been. I wanted her, but I didn’t deserve to ever hear her soft laugh again. Not after I left her, walking out of her life without even saying goodbye.
I no longer saw the beauty in front of me. Instead, I conjured an image of my beloved Meera. She is sitting in her dark room, tears flowing hotly down her cheeks. Her hair was disheveled and her proud shoulders pressed down by the enormity of her sorrow. I did this to her.
I hear a tearing sound as the vista returns to my sight. I looked down and realized I was fisting a handful of grass, pulled by its roots in my own frustration.
I stood quickly, almost unaware of the treacherous drop off in front of me. In a more rational mind, I would be terrified of how easily I could plunge to my death. But I was not rational now. I was desperate to return to my car. The moment I realized I can only be truly whole when I return to Meera, the loneliness took form and pressed against me so I could barely breathe. I needed to find her.