Updated: Jan 11, 2021
I remember when we went camping. It was the kind of idea that started out as a joke. We were in Walmart, shopping for whatever-the-fuck, walking through the camping section (why does Walmart have a camping section?) and you disappeared from behind me. I called out your name and you started making these ridiculous ghost noises from inside this cheap two-person tent on display, beckoning me inside, claiming to have unfinished business. I followed you in. We barely fit inside. We wondered who the hell could get a good night's sleep inside this thing. I suggested we should go camping and we both immediately laughed at the notion of us in the great outdoors. We'd both at one point unironically complained about the low thread count of mattresses we'd slept on, what business did we have slumming it in the elements? We'd have kissed inside that tawdry tent if the Walmart employee hadn't asked us to leave.
I think of that camping trip as I watch you laying in my arms. I try to cast myself back to that moment, let the memory overwhelm me and make me remember why we fell in love. I've tried remembering every night for months. Sometimes it almost worked. I would feel it on the periphery of my being, a warmth, an affection. But it never lasted and I would find myself back where I am now, with you in my arms, wanting to end things.
“I tried.” I think as I put my hand on your cheek. “I really, really tried.”
You bought the tent for my birthday. We were having dinner and you pulled out this bulky, shapeless mass of a present from a big straw bag you'd brought to the restaurant.
“It was the only bag big enough to fit it in,” you said shrugging when you saw how I was eyeing the bag. There we were in a fancy Japanese fusion restaurant with me loudly tearing the paper off the most poorly wrapped present in the history of presents. I was only halfway through unwrapping it when I recognised the obnoxiously yellow colour of that god-awful looking tent from Walmart. I looked up at you and gave you my most withering “are-you-kidding-me” look. You didn't say anything and handed me my second present which was a bag of marshmallows.
“We have to go camping now,” you said. “We're completely prepared.”
Falling out of love with someone feels like betraying them, It feels like you're backing out of an unspoken pact you'd made together. And you don't betray them just once. You betray them over and over again. Every time you hold them, every time you're there for them, every time you kiss them is a fresh lie.
The tent sat collecting dust in my flat for three months. I had almost forgotten about it when you announced we would be going camping that weekend. It was abrupt and out of character for you. Every trip we had taken together before had entailed at least 2 months of planning – one month for every week we'd be away. You said you wanted to take advantage of the last hot weekend of summer or we'd have to wait a year for the next opportunity. Did you already sense what was happening? Was I pulling away without realising it? Did you sense a distance between us on some unknowable level and were you trying to bridge it?
I must have watched you for at least an hour trying to build that fire. You were hunched over on all fours, ass dangling in the air, lighter in one hand, Youtube tutorial in the other.
“I'll get this,” you said repeatedly, worried I'd get bored. What you didn't know was I could have watched you for hours. One of my favourite things to look at was you refusing to give up on something. It didn't matter how pointless the task was, I just loved watching you be stubborn. But credit where credit's due, you did manage to light that fire and you cooked a pretty great dinner using it. It was dark when we finished eating. I looked up at the stars but you didn't care about them. You were too busy staring at the fire, smiling, admiring your handiwork. I kissed you on the cheek and you said:
“See? We did it. We went camping.”
You snuggle deeper into my chest and I realise when you wake up is the moment I'll tell you. You'll see the look on my face and ask me what's wrong. I can feel now I won't have the energy to lie to you again. So I'll tell you. I don't know yet which words I'll use. I'll do my best to choose them well but regardless, they will hurt. I'll watch the expression on your face change from attentive to concerned to confused to anguished. You won't let me finish. You'll ask me questions but you won't listen to the answers because you already know what's happening. You'll get angry because it's easier to be angry than be hurt.
I'll wordlessly pack my things. You'll hope I change my mind on my way out. You'll hope I turn around and take it all back, But I won't. And when I close the door behind me you'll break down and cry. You'll shuffle back into your bedroom and curl into your bed. Then you'll realise your sheets smell like me. So you'll go into living room. Then you'll realise every item in there reminds you of me as well. The stuffed bunny with the stupid expression we bought at that tiny flea market. The Christmas stocking from last year you still haven't taken down even though it's March. The bright red empty bottle of Swiss wine that gave us both hangovers so bad we stayed in bed all day. You'll consider burning it all down but then where will you go?
And then, eventually, you'll move on. You'll have changed, like I've changed, but you'll move on. Maybe you'll even understand. At least I hope you will.
But that hasn't happened yet. So for now I'll just keep holding you and think of our camping trip.