He was very well-travelled.
Last week, he was swimming with endangered sea turtles.
The week before, he visited an archeological dig at the foot of a smoldering volcano.
And now, he was at her freshly painted front door.
She was very proud of her shiny new place, and excited to show it to him.
It was a modern manor house. Newly constructed, bought with old money.
A bittersweet purchase, made with her inheritance from her deceased parents. So, the house was empty, but full of potential.
She hoped he would say something about the grand hall when she let him in. It was her favorite part of the house, with a formidable double spiral staircase, like arms reaching for the heavenly skylight above.
“It smells like chemical blue cleaner,” he said instead. His words echoed in the vast emptiness.
She thought it was kind of a weird thing to say before you were going to sleep with someone the first time.
“Guess it’s a departure from the turtles,” she offered, in an effort to salvage the mood.
“You haven’t travelled much, have you?” asked the Travel Influencer.
“No, I haven’t.”
“You have to. It’s the only way to truly broaden your mind,” he explained.
She had been to a few places, but apparently, after talking to him extensively that first night, they were all the wrong places.
She had been to Paris and seen the Eiffel Tower, which – according to him – the Parisians apparently hate so, he hated it too.
She’d had a wild time in Paris, but she wasn’t sure if she could say her mind had broadened from the experience. She didn’t feel different when she returned, except for what she jokingly called a “cheese hangover”.
“You have to travel towards something, not away from something,” he wrote in his Instagram caption under the photos from Mount Everest, with the sherpas fading in the background.
He disappeared before morning.
“I wish I could go with you,” she whispered to him in the dark.
“Let’s go,” he teased. Then he left.
The following week, according to his Instagram, he found enough courage to hang glide off a mountain in Rio de Janeiro, but not enough courage to get back to her with a forwarding address.
This made her want to travel so badly.
It was torture.
How could boredom scream so loudly?
The only time she felt normal was when she was chatting with him.
When he went silent for days – sometimes weeks – she’d fill her brain with conversations she wanted to have with him.
When her brain became too full, she would start filling her cavernous house with décor and furnishings instead.
But no purchase could compare to his heavily filtered travels and promises of an ever-broadening mind.
(Whatever that meant.)
The mansion was no longer her favorite place.
How she longed to leave it all behind. Escape to a spotless hotel room, where someone would bring her breakfast in a special silver bowl on a tray.
She did leave, in spirit. Her spirit abandoned the manor-style house. Even though her body stayed, she was clearly absent.
The once gleaming tiles started to crack, and the plaster flaked. The curtains became discoloured and dusty. The ceiling dripped and sagged under the weight of its own architecture. Moss and roots entered the building, eating away at the walls and foundation.
And the once grand staircase sighed under piles of clutter, all the way up, obscuring the upper levels and eclipsing the once hopeful skylight.
Until finally one day, the whole structure caved in on itself.
That day, they’d had a really dumb argument. Their first fight, and also their last.
He was live-streaming from the swim-up pool bar in his hotel.
“I remember that bar!” she exclaimed.
No, she didn’t – he explained. She was completely wrong. It was an entirely different resort from the one she was thinking, with a different swim-up bar, in an entirely different pool! She was so silly!
“No, you’re wrong” she felt herself saying for the first time.
“I don’t want to fight,” he explained.
“I want to,” she insisted.
He laughed. She was so amusing.
“Let’s go somewhere together,” he offered.
There was nothing wrong with her house when it was spotless and new and there was nothing wrong with it now while it was cluttered and mysterious. It was possibilities and adventure. It was secrets and mysteries. It was debris and stories.
Suddenly, she no longer wished to be taken away from all of it.
She would sift through the magnificent mess.
Repair the cracks.
Rebuild the double spiral staircase.
Restore the skylight.
Maybe this time, put in a glorious chandelier at the apex of it all – a glittering crown for the spiral staircases to reach up to.