When Traveling is in Your Bones… I was never loyal to the idea of marriage though I went through the motions. I wore a black matrimonial veil, a façade of loyalty that shielded my true self, hopes, wishes and my dreams from my husbands and family. Behind that, a layer of guilt that debilitated me and thickened as the years passed. I loved my husbands and family, that’s why I pretended white picket fences and the monotonous routine of life were fulfilling, but secretly, behind the closed-door of my mind that no one could enter, I was in love with my self and I felt disloyal.
As a child I wanted to work for National Geographic. I was an explorer even then because I was alone most days, save for my horse. We spent my days out-of-doors entertaining my inquisitive mind and my lonely childish heart. Golden Dancer was a little Arab Palomino, he was more than a mode of transportation, he was my best friend and he and I were on a mission to fill my days with wonder and mystery.
Through rainbows we traveled, his freshly groomed, white mane taking on the colors of the spectrum, it was magical. Together we swam in the open seas of a place called Nukko Lake where Pirates lost treasures and mermaids, the ones I grew in a jar in my bedroom and released into the lake of sea-water, matured and swam between his powerful legs, splashing us with their jewel emblazoned tails; their exotic laughter and whispered promises tickling my heart with surprise and wonder of the places we could visit.
We were transported to different lands where a Genie granted wishes and I was someone else with a different name, wearing different clothes. In these faraway places when I looked at my self, my hair and skin belonged to my inner me, not the me that was created by my small life in a small community with no sense of the world. I smelled different things, tasted different things, saw things in a different way. I knew worldly things and prided myself on knowledge that was contrary to that of my reality.
I could taste the dust of the African desert as it mingled with excited and heat-provoked sweat, trickled into the corner of my mouth and scratched my skin as I brushed it away with the back of my hand. And as I lay on my belly obscured by the African heat waves wafting skyward, heat waves that caused elephants in the distance to wobble, and hidden downwind from the frolicking lions and their cubs, I could forget my small world back home.
Barefoot on the bare back of my horse, no reins and running free, I was Ayla from Clan of the Cave Bear traversing this world alone and uncovering all her secrets. Sleeping in caves of hay in Dancer’s stall, hiding with my cat between my rabbits in their cage from the wrath of Sabre-Toothed Tigers and Brun. I was Margaret Mead, Jane Goodall, Amelia Earhart and Harriet Chalmers Adams. I was a member of the world I read in books. We had no television, my books were my training for the life I wanted to devour. A pre-requisite to my future, but I was wrong.
My best friend was sold. I replaced him with cigarettes, boredom, depression and complacency. I became a normal person caught up in the normalcy of small town life and got married for the excitement of the day. Escaping as an adult then, meant Shirley Valentine and sociocultural anthropology at University. I still don’t watch television unless it is Survivor or the Travel Channel. I was still the female explorers of my past but also Hunter Reno.
I am no longer married. I am a widow x 2. I spent 7 months in Barbados, a dream come true and it felt like shit because the baggage of my life was heavier than my carry-on. I’d been many times before, was married there, it felt like home, but it spoke to me differently this time. Had my inner child not popped herself out of the recesses of my gray-matter in this time of need I swear I would have died, I think I tried. But she came and we cried. And then we explored.
Barefoot we randomly wandered beaches for six to eight hour stints; collecting sea fans and shells, dodging ghost crabs and eating sea grapes. We fell asleep on a placid sea while snorkeling a beach in Speightstown on a flu-ish day and awoke to something reminiscent of Saint Elmo’s Fire. We marveled in the fact that at certain times it is almost possible to circumvent the island via the shore-line except for some spots in North.
I spent the first four months alone with the self-made child that glued herself to my thoughts, my pen and sometimes my camera; though most days I left that back as the places we went would prove a hazard to its fragility, though never mine. The more we explored the further away she wandered until one day, I realized I was completely alone in a world I have always wished to be, and I was terrified. Humbled.
Reverence for that brave-hearted child saved my adult soul and allowed my destructive, painful guilt to reinvent itself, to evaporate and nestle in a sea of forgotten dreams that were now attainable because the Universe had made it so. And it was my job to accept that. I carried the memory of my husband back to the Sea Breeze Hotel on the Maxwell Coast where we took our vows years before and left him there to rest in peace.
I shed my sandals and my t-shirt, dove into Oistin’s Bay with my eyes open and my breath held, shadows in the distance swam toward me then left. I could hear hooves splashing, mermaids and a childish giggle, the far off voice of a Genie granting wishes to someone else in need. The mermaids were blue flying-fish. The Genie a tasty Mahi Mahi, the sound of hooves came from deep within my chest – it was my beating heart and the childish giggle, was my soul being freed. With aching lungs I realized my wish had been granted too.