The water was moving me back and forth with a rapidity I had not expected nor had a I ever experienced. I didn’t know what do. I felt that if I didn’t resist it, I would be swept away from the group. I grabbed onto dead coral but it sliced and shred my fingertips. Eventually, exhausted, and using too much air, I signalled to the dive instructor that I was stressed. He reached out and grabbed my hand. With his free hand he pointed up; my gaze followed. Manta rays were circling above, it was majestic. When we got back on the boat I lay on its rooftop, pulling off my wetsuit, breathing deeply, looking at my bleeding fingers, thinking about his strong hand clutching mine. When I got back to my room I cried under the shower.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali 2013
I awoke at 2am with the immediate need to go to the toilet. I climbed down from the top bunk and made my way through the dark hallways to the bathroom. What came out was like water, and when I looked between my legs into the bowl, it was tomato red. I wiped and inspected the tissue. Blood diarrhea? Had I caught some perhistoric bacteria on Machu Picchu? It continued all night. The next day I was fatigued beyond anything I’d ever known. I asked at the front desk about the cost of seeing an English-speaking doctor. The man said it would cost $50. Instead I went to the pharmacia and took whatever it was they gave me. I shifted dorm rooms later that day and when the guy at the front desk offered to carry my bag up the flight of stairs I didn’t refuse. I said, Por favor. Gracias.
Cusco, Peru 2010
We were sitting on his couch in Lima and he was telling me I take goodbyes too literally. Though I wanted desperately to leave, to never see him again, to jump off the emotional roller coaster that had been my time with him, I still wanted him to want me to stay. I wanted it to have meant something. We kissed through the closed security door, my hands on the bars, his on mine. I looked back as I bounded down the stairs. I knew he would be watching me, but I looked back anyway.
Lima, Peru 2010
I was coughing, and it was relentless. All night, all day. Lying down, sitting up. You are very sick, he said. You could die, he said. I told him I was okay, that it would pass in a couple of days. He made me a cup of tea and sat down across from me. He asked me why I was by myself and whether I get lonely when I travel alone. I said I didn’t. But I went upstairs and cried, because I was more lonely than I ever knew was possible. I was so lonely I had to leave Melbourne, to get away. But it had followed me. I couldn’t escape.
Luang Prabang, Laos, 2014
She was wearing loose-fit, light denim jeans, a singlet and sandals and she had Argentine swagger. When she passed us on Avenida Santa Fe, a chill went up my side and my stomach dropped. I turned to my friend: Did you see her? I asked. Her mouth was ajar. It was Ann-Marie, she said.
Buenos Aires, Argentina 2010
I opened my Hotmail account and found an email from him. He’d baked a chocolate cake and put on it the number 2 candle from my birthday the previous year and held three fingers up next to it. Happy 23rd Birthday, he said. I cried. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could ever love me more than he did.
Bogota, Colombia 2009
She asked me to go to brunch with her and her girlfriend. I couldn’t speak Japanese and she and her friends had only a few words of English between them. I accepted the offer. It was beautiful kindest. I arrived in Kanazawa later that afternoon, in the midst of a typhoon. I sheltered under a carport, sitting on my backpack, drinking a vending machine soft drink. The hostel manager arrived a couple of hours later: Gabby-san, Gabby-san, come inside!
Takayama, Japan 2012