The Englishman and I said our last goodbye over two months ago at the airport in San Francisco. Fittingly, we said hello again last week at the airport in Nice.
The two of us have had countless rendezvous in airports all over the world: from Cairo, to Rome, to Tel Aviv, to London and Portland, and beyond. International meetings have long been a staple in our often-estranged relationship.
By now the tearful farewells and long awaited hellos at the various customs and immigration halls of the world’s airports have become de rigueur.
Our last visit here in Nice, brought into focus just how absurd a long distance relationship is. Surely to choose to be apart from someone more than you are with them, is a sign of insanity. But that is exactly what we have been doing for far too many years now.
Our pairing was somewhat unlikely from the start. On paper, we have almost nothing in common. I recently asked the Englishman what he thought our shared interests were. His response: “we share a love of Cornichon.”
At the top of the list of differences: we hail from different countries, and are of different generations. I doubt growing up in the north of England in the 80’s had much resemblance to my childhood in Hawaii and California in the 90’s.
And although technically we speak the same language, there are times when it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The Englishman is prone to saying things like “I’ve got a right dab on” or stating that something or other is “doing my nut in” or telling me not to be “so nesh”. And any conversation including the word pants can quickly become confusing.
I know he doesn’t understand things I say either. He seems to find my pronunciation of most of the English language utterly absurd.
And our differences don’t stop with our vocabularies. While he is an avid lover of sports, saying I have little to no interest is a generous characterization of the facts.
His idea of the perfect meal is a big bloody steak perhaps with a bit of something green for garnish. I am a lifelong vegetarian.
He is happiest on a 30-mile bike ride usually straight up the side of a mountain. I prefer a relaxing hour of yoga.
But despite these glaring distinctions, and a raft of others, we seem to work together. I recall clearly the first time I laid eyes on this man, and if not love at first sight, It was something similar. Maybe Paula Abdul was on to something.
After being left to my own defenses for the past few months, settling back in here on Rue d’Angleterre, it was nice to have him sharing the apartment with me again.
He arrived fresh from a couple of weeks working in Libya and we spent our days soaking up the Cote d’Azur sun, sipping ice-cold verres de rosé, and even managed to get up to the French Alps for the last weekend of spring skiing (I of course spent the afternoon happily ensconced within the alpine lodge).
But after all this time, maintaining a relationship remotely doesn’t get any easier. On each visit, we have to re-learn that even after years together; it takes a bit of time to re-acclimate to each other after months apart.
And it seems that just when we get it right, the visit comes to an end and the long distance ensues.
Maybe this straddling of the worlds of single and coupled life is what appeals to some about a long distance relationship. It’s true; you can go about your days with the freedom and independence of a single person, while having the warm feelings of being in love the same time.
But at a certain point, it becomes unmanageable. For me the reality is, we share parts of our lives, but we are not living a life together in real time. It can only work like that for so long
Short of moving to The Occupied Palestinian Territories though, where the Englishman will be stationed for the foreseeable future, and which I am not particularly keen on doing, our lives will have to carry on parallel to each other at a distance.
I wish I could say I have figured out the secret to a successful relationship apart… but I haven’t. I do know that the more time we spend to together, the better it is. And that’s something. But for now, we’ll keep shuttling back and forth across the Mediterranean and hopefully the time apart will keep shrinking until it becomes the rarity.
Our next airport meeting is scheduled for a few weeks time in London. I am already anticipating the big smiles and hugs at Heathrow.