I had an opportunity recently to travel quite far, to a place I love, with people I adore.
I had to decline the opportunity, but I’ve been remembering the place, and some of the people, from when we were last together in Tanzania in August.
Our last night at the hostel, we returned from dinner (a giddy gathering over Indian food and surprise ice cream for Babu Bill) – and dispersed to our rooms. I was restless, and made my way through the humid night up to the roof, where you could bring bottles of Kilimanjaro beer from the refrigerator downstairs, sit on a swinging bench and enjoy the view of Dar es Salaam. My dice partners were already on the swing—Matty, a dark-eyed charmer, and Sarah, golden and strong and wistful. With no television or internet and plenty of cheap booze, we’d played Five Hundred and Bastard Brag and Oh Hell every night for nearly two weeks and the card games and the dice had become not just a habit, but a way of understanding each other, and the day, and what it was all beginning to mean.
So we sat in the dark, together on the swing. We talked about dice, but did not play. We looked out over the city, at shacks and palm trees and two-story houses lit here and there with lamps or fires, heard dogs barking, occasionally a car labor by on a bumpy dirt road.
Our last night together, we said sadly. Kevin joined us. Tall, weathered, pragmatic and yet conflicted. A true free spirit. And Eric, quiet and calm. Our last night, we said. If we looked closely enough, we could see across the city to a silvery sliver of Indian Ocean.
Do you hold back, so that your heart is not bound to others’ hearts, to that it doesn’t hurt so awfully when you have to say good-bye? So that when you remember that night, and the days previous, long days hauling gravel and flipping each other good-natured shit, so that when you remember the Nam Hotel and Marmite and carrot plumbing and red knickers, you miss it so much you almost wish it had never happened?
I think you hurtle into it with everything you have. So that you can remember, you have the privilege of remembering and it will be bittersweet, like the very best chocolate.